City of the Dead, Ceremonial Healing

Ancient Tribal Traditions Survive in Modern Festivities
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For eons we humans have called on our ancestors in times of trouble, and that need still exists today. Making peace with the past is essential for making peace in the present and the future. The expression of grief is often considered one of the highest forms of prayer, because the act of grieving acknowledges our deep love and gratitude for the blessing of life itself.

It is commonly believed that violence and anger are the result of unexpressed sorrow and grief. Celebrating life in a ceremonial way creates a safe place for the whole community to grieve together. Each one of us has been touched and shaped by others who are no longer here. October is a time for ghouls, ghosts, trick-or-treaters and candy, but there is something much spiritually deeper and ancient than what we see on the surface of these modern festivities.

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It is our responsibility to keep the memory and wisdom of our ancestors alive in our own lives, to forgive the past while embracing the present moment. In a society that focuses on accomplishments and being busy all of the time, the courage to embrace each other in the vulnerable realm of our emotions and feelings is priceless. We will pass from this life some day, and taking time to remember that can inspire us to live with love and compassion for all who share this life with us.

Imagine more than 50,000 people of all ages including children, parents and grandparents pulling floats honoring their ancestors wearing La Catrina whiteface alongside drummers, stilt walkers, and samba dancers parading through the city streets. It happens every year in Tucson, Arizona. This year marks The 28th Annual All Souls Procession and there is nothing quite like it anywhere in the world.

A giant urn is wheeled through the crowd collecting the prayers, wishes, and dreams of each participant as it passes. At the end of the procession the urn is hoisted high above the crowd in preparation of a grand finale filled with fire and spectacle. It is ceremony in an ancient but contemporary form, a creative expression of community that is so important yet often missing in our modern world.

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The giant burning urn may conjure thoughts of the popular Burning Man Festival, but there is a profound difference. The All Souls Procession is a free, cross-generational, sober event that is integrated into an urban center with cultural roots that go back for millennia. Incorporating elements of contemporary Day of The Dead like sugar skulls, marigolds, and elaborate shrines lit by candles, the weekend is filled with meaningful events, performances, and an invitation for all to participate.

Precolonial Mesoamericans were deeply rooted in a cultural heritage dating over 3,000 years. One ritualistic observance was ancestor reverence which included both honoring and making offerings or sacrifices to one’s ancestors. It was believed that during this time, the dead visited their still-living relatives and that communication was possible between the living and deceased. According to Mesoamerican tradition, the realm of the dead was not frightening, but serene. The deceased rested peacefully until it was time to visit the living. Precolonial civilizations described death and life as continuous interwoven aspects of the human experience. Instead of feared, death and the dead were welcomed and celebrated. Upon arriving in present day central Mexico over 500 years ago, Catholic Spanish conquistadors desired not only territory and resources, but also spiritual control of the people they conquered. Spanish conquistadors labeled native rituals as sacrilegious and led violent attempts to indoctrinate early indigenous civilizations into Catholicism. -Wikipedia

Tucson is an ancient place surrounded by the majesty of the Sonoran Desert and many diverse communities. Arizona is filled with vibrant Native American culture from The Apache to Hopi, Navajo, Yaqui, Tohono O’odham and many others. Tucson sits at the cross-roads between north and south with a rich history of Spanish Missions, outlaws, and cowboys. These natural and historical elements are blended together under the direction of Nadia Hagen, Paul Weir, through the non-profit organization, Many Mouths One Stomach and powered by an army of local volunteers who are all dedicated to making sure that each year is better than the previous.

All Souls workshops span the whole month of October and culminate on November 4, and 5. Saturday at Armory Park is The Procession of Little Angels, where kids paint their own angel wings and sugar skulls while watching performances from Stories That Soar and Tucson Circus Arts followed by a sunset Lantern Procession around the park.  Sunday is the All Souls Procession and Finale with floats, bands and big crews assembling at 4 p.m. for the procession. This year also brings the premiere of Many Bones One Heart, a documentary film about the procession by Leslie Ann Epperson.

The Grand Finale is hosted by Flam Chen, one of the nation’s oldest fire circus theatrical groups. Watch silk aerialists dangle from a crane above the urn which is lifted onto a scaffold while fire spinners, folklorico dancers, hauntingly beautiful music, and acrobatic stilt walkers fill the stage under the desert sky with city skyscrapers just a few blocks away. The urn, made of geometrical patterns, now filled with mementos collected during the procession is set ablaze. It lights up like a lantern warming the faces of onlookers setting their dreams and prayers free with a roar of cheers (and tears) from the crowd.

Local artist and photographer Stu Jenks has compiled some of the best photos of previous All Souls Processions into an Ibook called, It’s a Mystery, and all proceeds from the purchase of this visual odyssey go directly to supporting this free community event. Two other Ibooks were also created recently to help families bring depth and meaning to this season. The first book, Procession of Little Angels, is a scrap-book with photos and illustrations for children, the second is The All Souls Loteria, both by Nadia Hagen. Visit their donation page here and look for their Facebook page to see photos posted shortly after the event.

Wherever you may be in the days following Halloween this year, please take a moment to remember all those who have come before you and reflect on what it means to be alive.

ARTICLE PHOTOS BY EMILY ANN JONES

FEATURED IMAGE BY ADDIE MANNAN

 

Standing Rock One Year Later, Victory for the People

“It is easy to be grateful when things are going our way, but to be thankful in the hardest of times is a true sign of strength, nobility, and grace.” -Chief Phil Lane

Background: Few recognize just how successful the youth-led indigenous movement to protect sacred water continues to be despite some painful defeats. Last fall was a powerful time for all of us with a heated election season along with the clash between Water Protectors and law enforcement at Standing Rock. The new year came with a dramatic low for people everywhere who care about our waters, our planet, and the climate, that´s the brand new Air Source Heat Pumps are being used now to help the environment. It grabs the water that´s in the air and turns it into drinking water. As we come into the one year anniversary of Standing Rock Youth running 2,000 miles to bring their message of Mni Wiconi (Water is Life) to Washington DC, we have some good news and a special opportunity for you to participate in keeping the prayer alive.

In March of 2016, Inspired by Waniya Locke along with the Keystone XL Fighters, and spiritually guided by Wakpala Elders Vernon and Theo Iron Cloud, Bobbi Jean Three Legs and other youth in Wakpala organized a run for the water and people. After first running through communities in Standing Rock they ran 11 miles from Wakpala to Mobridge to bring awareness of the dangers of DAPL to their neighbors outside of Standing Rock. The run included children as young as 5 years old, teenagers, elders, and youth in their early 20’s. One runner, Elder Kevin Locke, was in his 60’s. Parents drove behind them while backing them up with prayers and water. The first run from Wakpala inspired the Oceti Sakowin Runners from across the Sioux Nation to bring the No DAPL message to the Corp of Engineers Headquarters in Omaha. From there they brought their message, Mni Wiconi, which means “Water is Life”, to Washington, DC. and the world!

Led by Bobbi Jean, these youth ran 2,000 miles arriving in Washington DC one year ago this week (wow, time flies). They brought with them a petition signed by 157,000 people which was started by Bobbi Jean, and Anna Lee Rain Yellowhammer in hopes to stop construction on an oil pipeline that threatened the water supply in her community along the Missouri River. Celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Shailene Woodley (see her tweet below from 2016), Jane Fonda, Mark Ruffalo, and Jason Momoa got behind the campaign and what followed is one of the most historic and timely movements in modern history.

The policy of an incoming president to turn his back on the youth, the water that sustains life, and our future underscores decades of failures in the US and abroad to address important environmental issues. The youth were heartbroken but remained undeterred in this battle for our collective future. The embers of this fire continued to glow. The roots of this global movement run deep and we are just now seeing the resilience of this community that continues forward, together with hope, determination, and love in our hearts. Still it was a long, hard winter for all of us, especially the people of Standing Rock and Wakpala.

“All the communities of Standing Rock stood strong against DAPL. We gave our time, volunteer work and whatever financial support we could. Millions of dollars were raised and spent in the name of Standing Rock, but when it was all over our children and young people of Wakpala were left with nothing, not even a decent basketball court or a playground where our many children and young people can play. Because of the loss of resources from our Casino due to blocked highways and other stuff, our elders and children have less than before, This is very tough on our families and children, especially when 86 % of our Standing Rock community members have no jobs and most are forced to live on welfare.” -Wakpala Elder Who Wished to Remain Unnamed

Collective Strength: What keeps us strong in hard times is a spiritual resilience that is shared across generations, it is ancestral, it is universal in every culture, and it is contained in the people’s stories. After the agonizing defeats in late 2016, with the direction of Chief Phil Lane, Unify compiled a free e-book called Pray with Standing Rock, Birth of a Global Movement which you can download here. Unify is an international community that supported Standing Rock on the ground, as well as through their vast social media network online by curating and producing live broadcasts, videos, and curating content from others to share through their large network. You can learn more about Unify’s role in supporting Standing Rock by reading their Executive Summary here.

Moving Forward: Chief Phil Lane and Four Worlds International Institute, again in collaboration with Unify, have decided to launch a small campaign to honor the community of Wakpala where the whole movement began. As we look and move forward we must always remember to honor the roots. The thought of children in Wakpala without even a decent, safe playground is unconscionable. So together we are going to do something about it. We are calling on you to join us as we raise funds to build a playground to honor the youth of Wakpala who brought this important message about water to the world. Please visit here to help us say “Thank You” to Wakpala!

As children we all probably heard the saying, “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you played the game.” This wisdom may not have soothed us in the moments of sorrow directly following a painful defeat but sometimes the difficult moments shape our character better than anything else. In the face of defeat, we emerge stronger than before, strengthened by the love and support of our global community to address the pressing issues of our day. It starts with creating safe places for children to play while knowing that they are loved and supported!

Summer of Love Turns 50 With a Global Call to Action

Martin Luther King stated that “hatred can not drive out hatred, only love can do that”, but what does that love look like when it is put into action? The Summer of Love in 1967 gave us a template for a great awakening of consciousness, love, and social action. 50 years later we see a global movement that is not content to overindulge nostalgic sentimentality, yet we must remember the roots to this dream of peace, love, and understanding. Something new is blossoming from the seeds that were planted in those turbulent times. Today we address the challenges of this time with a renewed sense of purpose, and urgency using creativity, technology, and a fearless love for the immense blessing of life.
First Global Broadcast June 25, 1967 on the BBC’s Our World with the Beatles’ All You Need is Love

Media Can Bring Division or Unity, a Matter of Priorities

Bringing division has become a trend lately which can be seen by anyone sifting through their Facebook Feed, or turning on the television (Fox for the right, MSNBC for the left in America). However, things didn’t start out this way and the pendulum is starting to shift as we begin to recognize how futile the mud-slinging and division is for our well-being and for the planet. Bob Dylan’s wisdom was as true then as it is today, the times they are a changing!
The very first ever global broadcast happened on this day in 1967. It was a BBC program called Our World. The Beatles were commissioned to write and perform a piece of music that 400 million people would be simultaneously watching around the world. What was the song and the message? All You Need is Love…
Photo Credit: JOSHUA BROTT, OBSCURA DIGITAL Summer of Love 50th Anniversary Kicks off at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park with a light-show, June 21

The Evolution of a Movement

The generation following the Baby Boomers saw the rise of global networks and explosion of independent media via the internet. Using the same inspiration of the very first television broadcast and message of love, Unify was born. Organizing globally synchronized, meditations, ceremonies, actions, and events via their popular Facebook Page, the group now boasts a network of close to 10,000 local organizers across the planet, a weekly social media reach ranging from 5-15 million, an email list of almost a half million, and a Facebook following of 1.6 million. Unify specializes in collaborating with other popular Facebook Pages like Collective Evolution, UPLIFT, Phenomenalisms, the Mind Unleashed, Cooperatist Movement, and Sustainable Human along with many more organizations and nonprofits. This grass-roots participatory movement is infusing the planet with hope, solutions, practical actions, and a shared vision of one unified, healthy, thriving planet. This summer promises to be their most impactful season yet!
“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream you share together is reality.” -John Lennon & Yoko Ono
UNIFY.org
The 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love kicked off on June 21 with synchronized events for World Yoga Day; an interactive map honoring sacred sites in conjunction with Chief Arvol Looking Horse’s vision for World Peace and Prayer Day; and a live-feed from the Points of Light Conference in Seattle. San Francisco. Conservatory of Flowers in collaboration with Obscura Digital, Illuminate, and Golden Gate Park commemorated the launch with a beautiful light show and installation that will run until October 21. The summer will be filled with coordinated events across the planet that culminate on the International Day of Peace as recognized by the United Nations on September 21. This Summer of Love isn’t only in San Francisco, it has gone global. How will your city or community get involved?
World Peace and Prayer Day map of sacred sites. Honoring sacred sites and restoring our sacred connection with the land and each other is central to creating peace and a healthy planet for future generations.

Boundless Solutions

Focusing on climate issues has become fear-inducing and can leave us wondering if there’s anything we can do to bring solutions. Few people recognize that many leading experts believe firmly that we can reverse this trend. Restoring balance to our climate is possible if citizens are prepared to take action together in a unified expression of love for our planet. Sustainability has become a buzzword that is often used to set a divide between left and right political ideologies but it will not get us where we need to go. We now need to look at regenerative solutions that create a healthy climate for our future. Why sustain unhealthy systems? We are not here to merely survive, we are here to thrive and together we will do just that when we decide to cast our fear to the wind and work towards solutions.
When government policies fail it is local leaders who step up and individuals who initiate to become the change we wish to see in the world. There are technologies in the works to take CO2 out of the atmosphere but more research-funding is needed. How do we accomplish this?
Since this has become a political hot-potato religious and spiritual leaders are stepping up along with concerned citizens to remind us that this is a moral obligation for future generations. Public support and awareness can help elevate the idea to get research endorsements for climate restoration efforts from the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and possibly even a Congressional Resolution. Once research is funded and we have conclusions to present, the gates will open up for business leaders, investors, and academics to come together and create magic. The current atmosphere of political division is bankrupt and that’s why the Summer of Love will provide an inspired lead-up to the UN Climate Summit, COP23 in Bonn this coming November.
“Let us not talk falsely now the hour is getting late…” -Bob Dylan, All Along the Watchtower

Simple Actions, Profound Results

Love is more than a feeling, it can be an action. Environmental issues are not the only hurdle we face, we are currently looking at wars and humanitarian crises across the planet. Since human beings are social creatures that need successful models to emulate. In partnership with the Great Silence and the Light House Foundation, and other exceptional partners including the United Religions Initiative, Unify is presenting the Rise for Syria Campaign.
By staying out of the political divisiveness surrounding the Syrian conflict, this campaign is focusing on real human beings caught in the cross-fire and simple ways that we can reduce suffering. Support for infants and mothers in refugee camps, building underground hospitals to assist the wounded, and live broadcasts from refugee camps each month will humanize what is happening on the ground while empowering people to make a positive change. If this model becomes successful, then it can be applied to humanitarian issues around the world.
“It’s not just the television, it’s not just the radio, it’s not just the billboards, it’s not just the multi-national corporations… It’s STILL the people’s story.” –A Box of Secrets, Welcome to the Age of Living Folklore

Then and Now

50 years later we are faced with a simple choice between choosing love, compassion and unity, or fear, division and war. Our media and technology has provided a perfect reflection and science has shown beyond a doubt why the Beatles were right. Simply stated, during times of stress and fear our brains do not function at their highest potential because the circuitry shuts off access to higher thinking centers in the neocortex condemning us to the lower animalistic responses of fight or flight.
We live in terrifying times but being terrified will not help us through it, love, compassion, and creativity will. Evolutionary biologist, Bruce Lipton speaks to this in a short web-film produced by UPLIFT while visiting the Maharishi Ashram in Rishikesh, India where the Beatles spent much time writing and sharing their spiritual message of love through music. Watch All You Need is Love here.

This is a Global Invitation for Universal Participation!

They say that when the people lead, the leaders will follow. We saw this during the Summer of Love in 1967, and we are prepared to make this true again in 2017 and beyond. We are calling forth all digital warriors, light-workers, artists, musicians, community leaders, entrepreneurs, youth, and elders to make this dream a reality.
Compassion Games is coordinating with Unify, International Day of Peace and the ongoing Summer of Love events
Upcoming events include Ringo Stars Birthday Party on July 7, that will be hosting a global moment to blast thoughts for peace and love over the world inviting people to chime in at 12 noon in their/your local timezone. This will create a wave of joy around the planet and you can look for local events (or create your own) at Ringo’s Page, or the Beatles Facebook Page. There will also be a synchronized moment on August 21 at 10:19 am for the eclipse which will coincide with a massive gathering in Oregon produced by Symbiosis during that weekend. September 9-24 are the Compassion Games which challenges individuals and communities to participate in coordinated acts of compassion.  There will be a globally synchronized meditation and prayer for peace on September 21 for the International Day of Peace, and you can add your local event to the event map here.
I will continue to blog about these and other related events throughout the summer on various platforms. The best way to stay connected is through my Facebook Author Page for blogs, and at Unify for social media campaigns, related articles, and memes. Also look for #summeroflove hashtag on Instagram, and Twitter to see what others are posting. This summer promises to deliver an antidote to the divisiveness and fear that has crippled our global community and you are empowered to become part of the solution . A better world is possible and together we will make it happen. Let LOVE lead!

Ancient Trickster Wisdom for Uncertain Times

Sometimes you need to break the tradition in order to keep the tradition alive and the accepted tradition breaker is the clown. – Hopi Scholar Michael Kaboti

This was one of the first teachings I learnt from the deep cultural wisdom of the Hopi People. The western mindset is built on having answers, whereas traditional cultures have reserved a special place for the unknown, often called reverently the Great Mystery. We are living in potent – yet uncertain – times, and the trickster/clown archetype has some powerful medicine that will help us dive into the depths of this uncertainty in a fearless way.

The trickster teaches us that sometimes it is better to wonder than it is to know. Accepting this truth can be exciting and humbling for us as humans. The words human, humor, and humility, all come from the same linguistic root for a good reason. We are noble beings when we are in balance with our folly. When we become arrogant and rigid is when we often create the most trouble for ourselves and those around us. When we get too high on our horse, the trickster is the one who will knock us down a notch and remind us to laugh at ourselves, otherwise others surely will.

Many Native American Tribes Consider the Coyote a Trickster and a Teacher

What is the Trickster?

The distinction between clown and trickster is subjective; however, generally, tricksters are considered more mythic and archetypal, whereas clowns are their more worldly counterparts. Thus, the trickster comes in many forms, including clowns, merry-makers, buffoons, and jesters – they can be playful, mischievous, disrespectful, backward, paradoxical, or even obscene. This archetypal energy can play out through various circumstances in our lives, and make us feel like we are the butt of a cosmic joke.

Tricksters cross boundaries in society, playfully disrupting normal life. This bending of the rules usually appears in the form of tricks or thievery. Tricksters openly mock authority, and can be both cunning and foolish. They break rules, boast, and play tricks on those around them.

Take, for example, the great American contribution to clowning, the hobo-clown. We laugh at him as he slips on a banana peel and everything goes wrong in his life. This form of slap-stick humor teaches us to laugh at life’s challenges and not take ourselves so seriously. Sometimes things go our way and other times it can seem like the whole universe is conspiring against us.

Once you can laugh at a situation it will no longer have power over you. – Slave Adage

Tricksters come in many forms including clowns, merry-makers and jesters.

Tricksters Around the World

Tricksters and clowns exist in almost every culture around the world. Many Native American Stories have the trickster embodied as a coyote, and Coyote Tales were central to long nights around the fire during winter months. The Lakota call their trickster, Heyoka, and he is often seen sitting backwards on his horse. The Azande People in Central Africa have Ture, a trickster that is a spider who can change form into any animal. Ture brought food, water, and fire to the people, but he is always tricking people, stealing from them, serving his own interests, acting crudely, and being disrespectful.

Oftentimes we are grateful for the gifts and revelations the trickster brings us without actually condoning the behavior of this confusing character.

These characters that don’t neatly fit into traditional categories, or can’t simply be called good/bad, are the characters who fall in the trickster category. Often we are grateful for the gifts and revelations the trickster brings us without actually condoning the behavior of this confusing character.

Joker is Wild and Anything Goes…

Hopi Clowns in Action

Writing about Hopi ceremonial culture is very delicate because they have strong oral tradition, but Hopi artist and scholar Michael Kaboti explained the importance of sharing the clown wisdom everywhere that it has been forgotten. So I am happy to share a magical experience I had at a sacred Hopi dance in honor of my friendship with Michael. The Hopi Mesas are beautiful places with ancient wisdom, but it is not respectful to visit without an invitation, or someone that can guide you through proper protocols.

The villages sit high above the painted desert with stone buildings that are hundreds of years old. Some structures are said to be over a thousand years old, and the houses surround a central plaza where the ceremonial dances take place. People crowd the plaza and sit on the roofs under the hot Arizona sun to learn and remember aspects of their ancient culture.

During the dance, at a certain moment, the clowns enter the plaza. Boisterous, disrespectful, talking loud, eating, throwing food, maybe even desecrating the altar and acting completely oblivious to the fact that there is a sacred ceremony happening. The audience oscillates between laughter and a feeling of anger as these clowns act increasingly rude and disrespectful.

Hopi Clowns taunt the Sacred Kachina Dancers

Confronting Ignorance

As the ritual theater unfolds, the Kachina Spirits enter the plaza in full regalia, decorated from head to toe with yucca whips and gourds of holy water. They have come to reprimand these unruly clowns and purify them from their ignorance. When the clowns see the Kachinas, they run into the audience to get away. The audience cheers as the Kachinas follow them in the audience. What few people notice though is that the Kachinas are throwing the water on the audience as they run after the clowns.

The clowns represent the ignorance of us humans, the childishness that we exhibit, the way that we can be so self-absorbed, so arrogant.

When the Kachinas chase the clowns, it is the humans watching that receive the purification. This deep cultural wisdom allows people to laugh at themselves indirectly, and be purified of their own judgment and anger through ritual theater. A beautiful aspect to this dynamic is that the clowns are considered to be the parents to the Kachinas. In this way, there is also a reverence for the child-like innocence within us, that we must strive to evolve, but we will always be humans full of folly.

Tragedy and Comedy Artwork by Lionel Milton

Profane and Sacred

The trickster makes us examine the profane and the sacred. It brings the shadow to the light. Both the profane and the sacred are two sides of the same coin, and they often define each other. French sociologist, Émile Durkheim, considered this to be the central characteristic of religion. He believed that the sacred represents the interests of a group or community, which is embodied in cultural symbols. The profane involves the opposite, the not-so-special, the mundane, the human day-to-day individual concerns. Durkheim made a very important observation that is not part of conventional wisdom, which is that the sacred/profane dichotomy is not equivalent to good versus evil. The sacred can be good or evil, and the profane can be either as well. We do not live in a world of absolutes, there is much grey area in between. This is the place where the trickster taunts us, pushes us out of our comfort zone and helps us evolve.

Religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden. – The Elementary Forms of Religious Life by Émile Durkheim

Only when we confront our unknowns and our ignorance, and accept them, can we embrace new ideas. We can often become so attached to what we know that there is no room for anything else to enter our consciousness, and this is usually when we find ourself face-to-face with the trickster archetype. The antidote to too much pride is a dose of humility, and the trickster is more than happy to laugh at your human-folly in case you should ever forget it.


The trickster taunts us, pushes us out of our comfort zone and helps us to evolve.

Developing a Relationship with the Trickster

Sorrow, loneliness, doubt, anger, depression, confusion, and many other shadow emotions, are universal to all human experience. This is why we laugh at the sad-clown who is down on his luck, because we can all relate to these feelings. Our ability to have compassion for these aspects of being human, and have a relationship with these expressions of the self, is the key to personal mastery.

Losing control, or melting down, may be embarrassing, but we cannot always be in control of circumstances and sometimes breaking down is essential to transformation. Sometimes we are as helpless and foolish as a clown, and the only way to respond is with compassion, humility, and humor. The ability to laugh at ourselves is invaluable in this inevitable process, this is central to the medicine of the trickster.


Tricksters bring compassion, humility and humor to difficult feelings and situations.

Trickster Medicine in Modern Times

It is enlightening to look at the chaos of our modern times from the perspective of the trickster. We have politicians completely disconnected from their role as representatives of the people. We have extractive industries wreaking havoc on our sacred environment, desecrating the waters, air, and land. We can feel ourselves losing control of this monster that has become modern society, and the feeling of helplessness grows.

We are like that crowd in a Hopi Village watching the dance. It is sometimes funny to watch, but we are also fighting this deep anger and sorrow for what has become of our society. We point fingers at the politicians, and the corporations, yet they are manifesting an aspect of humanness that is within all of us. How do we shift our relationship with these shadow parts of ourself? How do we accept this inevitability, while also purifying ourselves and returning to our rightful place of humblest servants to this wild and beautiful creation that we are part of?


Tricksters help us to face the chaos in our society and see it in a new way.

Nowhere to Run

Sometimes a healthy dose of humor, deep felt compassion, and acceptance for all things that are beyond our control is the best way to shift the paradigm by healing from the inside. There is nowhere to run, when the trickster has come for us, we must learn to accept this wisdom regardless of how uncomfortable it may be.

Let’s Distinguish Trump Supporters from Racists

I stand with minorities and was terrified to see election results but I never bought the notion that Trump supporters are all racists. This is not a denial of the very real racism in America today or historically. This is not an apology for Trump or any racially-motivated behavior. This is an introspection into how we might heal an unfortunate situation. Fear is something we instinctually run from but it only resolves when we face it. Here’s a perspective that I hope will help all of us feel empowered and fearless as we greet an uncertain future.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. -Martin Luther King Jr.”

Fight or Flight is Wired into our Biology

Humans have been wired since the beginning of time to respond first and foremost to fear. In the wild this strategy was a matter of life or death, and so our brains developed accordingly. There is a part in our brain called the amygdala, which is literally a switch that shuts off all of our higher reasoning in moments of terror and focuses all our conscious attention on the fight/flight reactionary response. This is why fear is such a great motivator. It is also why advertisers and politicians employ fear to make us buy their product or vote for them.

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Unfortunately it works pretty often and the longer we are caught in this place of fear, the less we are able to access our higher thinking capacities. Though we no longer live in the wild we are still bombarded with fearful messaging and this is causing us to not think straight. The results of living this way perpetuates a terrifying world and I think we can all agree that this is what we have created for ourselves.

The Ruling Class will do Whatever it Takes to Keep the People Divided

Election 2016 was probably one of the most divisive chapters in recent American history. We also know that when we are divided as a people we become easy prey for financial and political predators. Regardless of whether there is truth to Hillary’s corruption or Trumps racism there is financial incentive for media-spin and can be used by political campaigns to exploit these stories in order to scare people into voting. This is nothing new in America.

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Some of us projected our fear onto one candidate while denying any information that would make our preferred candidate seem fearful (confirmation bias). This is the demon/hero story. For good reason many Americans felt terrified by both Trump and Clinton and just reluctantly opted to vote the less of two evils. This is true for Trump voters as well as Clinton voters, and each equally had a hard time understanding how the other could possibly vote for the enemy candidate.

We can identify with political leaders but over identifying with them or over identifying their followers is problematic. Since Trump won and the great fear around him are issues of misogyny and racism, it is easy to equate everyone who voted for him as misogynists or racists. The media has spent months convincing you that they are, but they certainly are not. Yes, some of them are jerks and they were jerks before Trump came around and now they have a platform thanks to him and the media.

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Heroes need Villains

Heroes and villains need each other just like dark and light. Humans often elevate themselves by pushing others down. Trump and Hillary, each with considerable baggage, needed to vilify the other in order to elevate themselves. The leaked Podesta emails showed that the Democrats political strategy included elevating Trump (along with his fearful misogyny and racism) as a “Pied Piper” to create controlled opposition to make Hillary look more presentable and win. Trump vilified Hillary but he also took it further and vilified immigrants to make him look like a protector of Americans who are struggling financially from trade deals that have shipped their jobs to Mexico or overseas. These are advertising techniques and theatrical stunts with real-life repercussions.

These are the same techniques used to justify endless bombings by both Democrats and Republicans to increase profits for weapons industries, one of our largest exports. If we are willing to believe that Trump supporters are all racists, that is just as bad as believing that Muslims are all terrorists. It is like saying that all Hillary supporters celebrate the selling of weapons to oppressive and barbaric regimes like Saudi Arabia (which later end up in the hands of ISIS).

Social, racial, immigration tensions are the root of, and are perpetuated by war. This can be an internal war with our fellow citizens or a full-blown military offensive. These tensions are born of economic inequality, which also breeds fear and division. We are all products of a failing economic system and the sooner we recognize this, the quicker we can change it. It is my opinion that neither candidate presented a solution in this regard and hence the endless mud-slinging.

Generalizations rarely work, nor does identifying with personalities and political parties instead of focusing on actual policies. We have allowed ourselves to be duped into forgetting our own humanity and the humanity of those that are different than us. These are fear tactics used to manipulate the masses but they will stop working when we decide that we will no longer buy these stories.

This is where the political revolution moves from the ballot box to ourselves as individuals. Are we willing to look at our fear, and the hatred it produces? Do we have the courage to face ourselves with love and compassion? This is how love drives out hatred, the way light drives out darkness. What is your greatest fear? It is probably born of something that you love. It may be your family, your life, your environment, justice, your country, your dignity, your racial heritage, your planet, your gender. The fear can become fierceness in your desire to protect these things and that is a beautiful thing when channeled compassionately.

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Take Time to reflect, Sink into your Own Heart or Nature

Those who sit on the other side of the political divide have the same fears and loves. The only way you may understand what motivates them is to stop and listen, to see the humanity within them. This is not just about our fellow Americans but our fellow humans around the world. The signs are everywhere. Hatred, fear, and division will never help us address the issues we all commonly face on the planet. War and environmental collapse are terrifying because they threaten all life on the planet but we will only resolve this fear by facing it together.

Inner peace, mental clarity, and compassion are what is needed. Nobody can give it to you, you can’t buy it at the store, there is no instant download, it is a daily practice. I spend countless hours researching and writing about how art, science, and spirituality can be utilized to elevate us without putting others down. I am guilty of the divisive mindset like all of us, so I take walks in nature, meditate, and eat healthy food so that I can be mentally clear. Only from this place can any of us hope to create the better world that we all know is possible.

We need to rage against the economic system that divides us and desecrates our planet, we don’t need to rage against each other. Take some time to listen to your enemy instead of shouting at them, and you may find that their loves and fears are not too different from yours. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that we live in volatile times that are also potent for unprecedented transformation and growth. We have the technology to destroy ourselves or create a better world, what we get will be a reflection of who we have become. Let’s become love and cast our fear to the wind.

Indigenous Led New Orleans Group Travels to Standing Rock

Press Release, New Orleans, LA, October 4, 2016

Cultural convergence protecting the sacred continues as New Orleans group travels to Standing Rock to oppose pipeline. Indigenous led group joins Shining Light Kitchen to bring food, medicine, tribal support and solidarity to North Dakota protest camp.

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NOLA Supports Standing Rock and Shining Light Kitchen will caravan on October 9-16, 2016 to bring organic New Orleans cuisine, all natural herbal remedies, local tribal support and South Louisiana solidarity to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which is leading the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline project. Opposition to the controversial pipeline project has garnered international outcry with both President Obama, the United Nations and over 280 Indigenous nations, cities and organizations from around the globe joining the tribe’s call to stop the construction of the prophesied “Black Snake”. This pipeline threatens the tribe’s sole source of drinking water, construction has already destroyed sacred sites and burial grounds, while causing serious violations to peaceful protesters civil rights. Fears that a major spill upriver from New Orleans will potentially affect the water of some 20 million people downstream have spurred the groups intentions to mobilize in support of the protection of the water for future generations.

“New Orleans has many reasons to stand in solidarity with the Lakota and over 280 tribes protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock, ND. First, is the watershed above New Orleans that feeds into the Mississippi. Pipelines break all the time, in case you haven’t noticed, and oil companies have a horrible track record of taking responsibility for the destruction of peoples’ water. We are all downstream. Think Gulf Oil Spill. Think Kalamazoo River. Do we need any more of this? Not at all. Now with the recent news of the EPA allowing an unregulated amount of fracking wastewater and chemicals to be dumped in the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans and Louisiana are taking a direct hit,” says Heather Coleman, Pottawattamie Tribal Member, and member of NOLA Supports Standing Rock. “So solidarity with the Lakota is a must for the sake of our commonly shared water, and the moral imperative to protect what is sacred to us and all of life, water.”

South Louisiana wetlands are disappearing at the alarming rate of 25-35 square miles per year. This loss represents 80% of the coastal wetlands loss in the entire U.S. By 2050, coastal LA will lose more than 630,000 acres of coastal marshes, swamps and islands.

“As climate change takes a crash landing from the future to the now, the people of Louisiana are getting the brunt of climate change, with the oceans warming and becoming ever increasingly acidic, there will be more rain than we can handle. This year has marked the warmest months, July and August, on record. 31” of rain fell in 2 days in August 2016, resulting in mass flooding in the greater Baton Rouge area, that destroyed thousands of homes, and took lives,” continues Miss Coleman.

The Shining Light Kitchen just wrapped up 6 weeks of disaster relief efforts in Baton Rouge, providing an organic kitchen and meals to those displaced by the recent flooding. The Kitchen will provide a 40-foot tipi that houses the fully equipped kitchen, along with a water purification system.

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Culturally, New Orleans celebrates indigenous culture through the esteemed Mardi Gras Indians (AKA Black Indians). Lakota Chief, Arvol Lookinghorse visited New Orleans in the wake of a vision by Tootie Montana, and David Carson in 1995 which coincided the birth of a White Buffalo in Janesville Wisconsin. The city welcomed him as a keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Prophecy in proclamations (see proclamations at  www.whitebuffaloday.com).

This coming together was significant in light of the long history of African Americans and Native Americans kinship during times of slavery. New Orleans has played a significant role in the preservation and evolution of these cultures mixing which has influenced carnival, our musical heritage and other creative innovations. Our shared values as diverse people implies that we stand together when facing a common threat. A threat to our water is not an existential threat, it is a major concern for the health of our families and children.

New Orleans is revered around the world as a cultural hub for the Arts, from its famous Jazz and Theater, astounding colonial French and Spanish architecture to most importantly its cuisine – born of French, African, Native American and Créole influences – that have graced this city for nearly three centuries. Despite this wonderful identity, what many people don’t know about New Orleans is that it has a very rich Native American history as well that is still prevalent today and is even memorialized in our street names and Mardi Gras krewes.

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Above: school bus, kitchen and tipi being brought to Standing Rock

For example, the N.O. areas known as Tchoupitoulas Street and Chef Menteur Highway is named for the Hạcha-pit-itula people who lived there while the highway is named for the Choctaw chief who was banished with his family and cohorts to that region. Furthermore, the carnival Krewes of Tchefunte and Chahta are named for the Hachofakti (a much older tribe) and Choctaw peoples respectively who inhabited the surrounding areas of New Orleans, thriving through established trade routes along the Tchefuncte River through Lake Pontchartrain with their northern cousins, the Bayou Lacombe Choctaws in St. Tammany Parish to the Houmas in the south among other tribal bands.

Even after European arrival, the tribes co-existed with many of the French and Africans selling goods such as filé, baskets and herbs in the French Market and even intermarrying with them. The Mardi Gras Indians are proof of such unions as they are the descendants of escaped slaves and Native Americans who established Maroon communities on the outskirts of New Orleans (black and red makes maroon hence the name) and today continue to carry on their legacy by annually masking to honor their unique heritage of both black and Native ancestry.

“We say this to clarify that Native history has always been a part of New Orleans history and continues to be today, and that we are here standing with all those not only in this country, but around the globe who stand in solidarity with the brave souls on the front lines in Standing Rock, ND who fight for our “unalienable rights” for Life,” says Sierra Lyn, member of the Bayou Lacombe Band of Choctaw.

“With a record of broken treaties, another broken treaty is something that we cannot ignore. We owe it to our relatives at Standing Rock to stand with them as they protect their land and our shared water. We may not be able to erase the injustices of the past, but together we can say no to injustices today. This is how we build a better world for future generations, this is what our great city committed to when Chief Arvol Lookinghorse visited us. This is our legacy, our responsibility, this is how we create change and birth hope across cultural divides.” Statement from NOLA Supports Standing Rock.

Nola Supports Standing Rock is a group founded to gather local information and resources to Stand in Solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The caravan will bring food for hundreds of people and supplies to make fresh honey based cough syrup. Winter is setting in and it is going to be a long haul for everyone who is at camp. We are going to be making gumbo,and  Etouffee, to keep them warm while we are there.

If you would like to support this historic offering, please visit here.

*Featured Image of Bigchief Kyoung Chahta by Steve Archbold*

Creating Culture: A Village Way of Life

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

― R. Buckminster Fuller ―

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Spring is here, and with it comes plans for summer adventures that are truly transformational! The alternative festival scene often attracts those who resonate with counterculture ways of thinking and being. Yet it is this subversive hotbed that takes the status quo, transmutes it underground, and sets the new trends for its re-emergence in mainstream popular culture. Isis Indriya and Eve Bradford have been vanguards of this movement for over ten years. Both have been guided by personal and community spiritual practice for many years and in every sense these two live what they teach. Their brainchild Living Village Culture aims to influence society through bringing culture back into the heart of community. This project is experimental in nature through seeing what emerges when we create a village way of life in modern, western contexts such as festivals and symposiums.

Their next offering is The Village Symposium, which will be held over five days (April 20th-24th) in Nevada City, California. A journey into community building, education, ritual and social change, this will be a conference exploring the place where science and mysticism meet. It will explore how we as humans can reinstate ourselves back into a harmonious and symbiotic relationship with the web of life. The Village Symposium is a taster of what can be expected from The Village at Lightning in a Bottle festival later this spring (May 25th – 29th).

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Community Creates Culture – The New University

Our generation is one in which individuals have been separated from their lineages and from a community-based way of living. Our interconnectedness with one other and the planet has been denied through linear time systems, hierarchical social structures, centralized politics, capitalistic economies and the false separation of mind, body and spirit. Western education and its institutions propagate these systems, leaving a stark gap between what we are taught and reality.

Conscious gatherings such as festivals are increasingly putting energy and resources into bridging this gap through formalizing the ‘school of life’. No longer just places to listen to music and party, gatherings have become a place where we can learn from each other and professionals at the top of their game through workshops, talks, film screenings, ceremony, symposiums, debates and exhibitions.

Combined with the advance of technology that facilitates mass communication, this new culture has helped forge ‘communities in the sky’ that go beyond borders and do not need permission from any institution to exist – the ultimate E-democracy. We now have the power not just to envision a new world, but to co-create and actually realise it coming into being. This is not about predicting the future, this is about inventing it.

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The Living Village Culture family sits at the core of these changes, through actively seeking to provide an authentic community experience at festivals and gatherings. The curation of their event narratives is based on cultivating skills and practices focused on earth-based wisdom and mystical traditions. Spaces are created that bring the sacred into a contemporary context through an honouring of our ancestors and the spirits of the land in ceremony. This experience fosters collaboration and creativity and makes space for the coming into being of a new culture where knowledge is crowd sourced.

It is through experiences such as these that we can collectively remember who we really are.

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Mother Earth as Divine Lover

We usually think of her as mother, indeed she has granted us life and is well-deserving of the term. As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, let’s explore other metaphors for our relationship with nature through the multi-faceted lens of the feminine. Thinking of her as a lover, a romantic partner, a friend, your sister, or even a child each cause us to relate to her in different ways. It is fun, refreshing, and valuable to reconsider the way we relate to our home planet.

I have mused about this idea for years and written about it from different perspective. In Collaborating with Gaia I explore the concept of co-evolution with our biosphere. From this perspective we find ourselves right in the middle of an improvisational jam-session between all life forms. Isn’t that a bit more exhilarating than considering that everything is inanimate and soulless? In Ending the Conquest of Nature we delve into the historical roots of belief systems that have pitted us against nature. Nature is often seen as our oppressor who will punish us or a slave to exploit and conquer.

If we see her as a passionate lover who wants to co-create with us, it will certainly change the way we interact with each other and our environment. I know… nobody wants to see their “mom” (Mother Earth) in a sexually erotic embrace naked before the night-time sky with her lover. However, there is no harm in us changing the way we look at her. She is an all-powerful goddess and definitely able to shape-shift with a little help from our imagination!

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Artist, Lisete Alcalde takes a selfie next to her painting “Mother Earth and Space”

Like all relationships, our relationship with the planet is complex and can be multi-dimensional and fluid, changing over time. We all love to think of our planet as “Mother” but that may contribute to some of our problems. Humans often act like immature little children not cleaning up our messes, fighting over toys, acting disrespectful of our mother while hoping to not be reprimanded. Perhaps we can grow up a little and get past the rebellious teenager phase of our evolution?

New ways to look at old stories.

What if we saw the earth as someone we had a crush on and needed to catch her eye or win her respect in courtship? How about a romantic companion that we grow and journey through life with as equal partners in discovery? I also like to wonder what if we treated her like she was our child, one that we needed to protect from predators and those who would harm her? By changing the way we look at her, we change the way we relate to her. It also changes our role in this world and redefines who we are.

Though humans have struggled through history to survive, there is something about love and passion that makes friction less oppressive. She could be a hot-tempered and erotic partner like the Goddess Pele who fell in love with Kamapua’a. Pele is named after a volcano, she is full of fire with red hair of molten lava. Kamapua’a has the power to bring rains that cool Pele’s lava and turn it into soil which grows the crops. This turbulent love affair created the abundant lushness called Hawaii.

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Above: The Artwork of Mark Henson

Visual art has the ability to shift our consciousness and change the way we perceive the world. Mark Henson is another artist who allows his audience to see the elements of nature as lovers intermingling. These images help us to undo the divisive and false stories like Social Darwinism (survival of the fittest) that still wreak havoc in our lives today. Indeed cooperation of species has played a much larger role in our evolution than competition, yet we are fed the competition narrative because it is central to the capitalist ideology.

Cooperation of species may well be the missing story to resolving much of our planets problems, and art might be the most powerful way to convey this idea. Humanity’s capacity for destruction and discord is equally matched by it’s ability to create beautiful inspiration. Sex, or better yet, making love is not limited to naked bodies but includes the concept of procreation with a paintbrush, a musical instrument, a dance, or the exchange of mutual respect within the larger community of life. Sex & Nature, the Evocative Artwork of Mark Henson

Poets and musicians sing praises to nature which is so necessary, yet no lover wants to be put on a pedestal. In addition with love and adoration, reciprocity and mutual respect are essential for any healthy relationship. We all know that feeling when the breeze gives us a gentle kiss on our skin. We have looked at the night sky and seen the darkness cuddle our planet with love. We have had the morning sunlight brush our forehead sweetly from across the universe and invite us to wake up in the morning. The ways that the earth loves us are indeed endless, yet we are only at the very beginning of learning how to love her back. Let’s ravish her with passion and beauty!

As we evolve the way that we look at our world, we change the way we look at ourselves and each other. This sets a stage for beautiful collaborations. Let’s reconsider our relationship with the planet and the feminine in all of it’s forms.

Call her a creative partner, and she might just invite you to join her in the creative process. In some ways she will always be our mother, but she is so much more than that. Grandmother, daughter, sister, mother, friend, lover, partner, nurturer, we have much to be grateful for on International Women’s Day!

FEATURED IMAGE, PAINTING BY PENNIE AUSTIN

Integral Dreaming, Collective Awakening

A turtle born on the beach knows to walk to the sea, birds know their migration routes, and whales have new songs to sing each year. These and other phenomena point to the idea that there is an innate wisdom in nature. There is an emergent potential in creation that is often overlooked. How do things begin and what are the precursors to birthing something new? When we look to the source of human inventions, we see that visions and dreams are usually at the source of creating something new. Science-fiction and fantasy stories from 50 years ago are now everyday realities for us. The vast realm of our unconscious is latent with information that is yet to be manifested into this world. How do we access it? Dreaming and meditation seem to be two potent ways to access this information, while ceremony and art are the traditional ways that humans engage, to enact this innate wisdom.

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The overlapping space between the academic/scientific research and the artistic exploration of dreaming is one of endless curiosity and depth. I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with two pioneers in the field, Anthony Colombo and Daniel Deslauriers, and our talks seeded what will become an ongoing discussion about the topic. I invite other bloggers, artists, academics, and dreamers of all sorts to join us in putting our heads, hearts, and stories together for this exciting journey of discovery.

By dialoguing with the dream image — and with others about our dreams — we cultivate the skill to take on multiple perspectives — that of self and of the culture for example- and we gain a greater awareness of the roles we enact culturally. — Fariba Bogzaran and Daniel Deslauriers in Integral Dreaming, a Holistic Approach to Dreams

Anthony Colombo is founder of Dreamspace which guides groups through an immersive experience where participants engage the brilliance of their dreams and imagination to co-create the lives they truly want. Anthony has produced award-winning cultural and environmental multimedia and taught interactive multimedia design, production and ethics as a university professor. He has also worked closely with indigenous elders in Arizona and Hawaii.

Dreaming comes to life when we collectively use our inner creative brilliance to co-create the vibrant planet we all want. The greatest resource we have lives in the infinite potential of the human spirit, imagination and dreams. — Anthony Colombo

Daniel Deslauriers is professor of Transformative Studies at CIIS (California Institute of Integral Studies)in San Francisco and former chair of the East-West Psychology Program. He teaches courses on consciousness studies (especially dreams), arts-based research, and multiple ways of knowing. He is also the co-author of Integral Dreaming, a Holistic Approach to Dreams with Fariba Bogzaran, Ph.D.

Exploration of this collective level may bring into awareness our past (the ancestral history we share with others), our present (our current cultural and ecological embeddedness), and our future (as the result of our present actions aggregating at a collective level). — Fariba Bogzaran and Daniel Deslauriers in Integral Dreaming, a Holistic Approach to Dreams

As you can imagine, our conversations covered a whole lot of ground. One common thread is the notion that somewhere in our past lies keys to understanding our present and co-creating our future. Sense of self, and sense of place within the larger community is central to tuning into the impulses that emanate from our core. The boundaries of the self can expand well beyond our bodies to include the realm of dreams, or even an understanding that we are an integral part of our environment both influencing and being influenced by it. Yet the center of our being remains the same and any expansion of this sense of self must be in proportion to our rootedness at the core within.

Karen Jaenke explains in her study, “Personal Dreamscape as Ancestral Landscape,” that dreams have the power to reveal forgotten memory. She notes that a relationship to ancestors “forms a central anchor for personal identity” allowing this sense of self to extend” into a generational awareness of connections, patterns, and stories woven into the relationship with land and cosmos.” We are part of a greater web, all of life is emergent within this matrix.

People in contemporary Western societies often suffer from a form of fragmentation due to a lack of contact with their own ancestry. Because most of our ancestors had a strong connection with place, connecting with one’s ancestry often sensitizes one to a sense of place. –Fariba Bogzaran and Daniel Deslauriers in Integral Dreaming, a Holistic Approach to Dreams


Memories Can Be Passed Down Through DNA video from DNews

I recently read a great article that talks about how scientists have found that memories may be passed down through generations in our DNA. As a fan of Bruce Liptonand the study of epigenetics we know that belief and experience plays a major role in changing our genes. Some would argue that genetically passing on “memories” is a misleading statement, but perhaps our understanding of “memory” could  be expanded… Is the shape left in the canyon long after the river that carved it has dried up potentially a memory left in the land? I explore this idea in World Water Day, a Reflection.

With the recent globally synchronized meditation movement sparked by Unify and supported through media by UPLIFT, as well as the many examples of crowd-sourcing that the internet has facilitated, we are seeing the emergence of a global consciousness. Perhaps a collaboration is in order… A dream this big can not be carried by one person, it’ll take an international, cross-cultural community to piece it together. That’s where you come in! If integral dreaming is the key to global transformation, then what is your part in this story? Perhaps you’ll need to consult your dreams…

** article originally appeared at UPLIFT**

This Sublime Dance, a Journey Between the Covers

Good coffee table books are like presents that you unwrap layer by layer each time you open them. In our age of social media, we often forget the joy of flipping through glossy pages and sinking into luscious imagery in a real book. It is a timeless experience that evokes senses which are missing from the immediate, on-the-go, fleeting nature of digital devices. Visionary Artist, Michael Divine recently lured me into this magical realm with his new release, This Sublime Dance.

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Michael Divine’s paintings make me reach for words that don’t exist in an effort to translate the feelings my eyes swallow as they glance at the colorful pages. Somehow these still images capture the morphing shapes that clouds make when they glide across the sky. There are stories in his work that are delicately unfinished, leaving just enough room for my dreaming mind to complete them. Beautiful combinations of geometry and perspective overlaid with whimsical dancing curves and silhouettes of invisible landscapes.

“It is crucial for the Visionary Artists of today to transmit their highest glimpses of mystical experience, to plant seeds of liberation in the mind-streams of viewers, and to validate the psychonaut’s sacramental gaze. Michael Divine is a champion brother in this quest.” -Alex Grey

Divine’s academic studies in comparative religion are apparent with each brush stroke as he  intertwines East, West, past, and future. Recognizing that academia only gives an objective discussion of the writings and experiences of others, Divine set out to create snapshots of his own journey visually. This playful, free-spirited, joyous celebration of color and form functions as a doorway into my own inner world causing me to reflect upon the journey I have made in this life. This is a true accomplishment for any artist, or art-lover!

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He shares parts of his own subjective journey and evolution through travel, meditation, and art as vehicles for personal liberation. There are fold-out pages that allow you to explore the detail that might otherwise be overlooked. I also enjoy seeing the preliminary sketches of some of the larger compositions so that I feel brought into the secret dimension of the artists process.

In the foreword, the editors mention that Visionary Art is and has always been a “people’s movement”. This accessibility to everyone and the willingness for the artists in this genre to celebrate each other rather than silently compete is also quite inspiring. Featuring the art of his contemporaries like Amanda Sage, Android Jones, Randal Roberts is also a testament to the mutual respect in this emerging creative community.

“With his imagery, Michael Divine creates access points to the “Divine” and holds the gates of “Heaven” open and ready for our arrival – a passage well worth taking.” – Martina Hoffman

Michael wanted to be an architect in his younger years but realized that art allowed him more freedom. Now he builds palaces of impossible visions, hallways of thought, and temples of imagination that are visible through keyholes engraved with Celtic Knots. One feels as if they have fallen into a kaleidoscope as they flip through the pages. I felt like I was soaring through arches and domes of stained-glass within a house of mirrors inhabited by whirling dervishes ascending and angels descending.

“I saw that all the stuff of life- all the wonder and beauty and darkness and disharmony, all the words and all the songs, the people and the places and the things, the emotions and opinions – it it was all this one ineffable thing. Feeling it, knowing it, didn’t require religion or spirituality – this thing-within-all-things simply was, and is. It was so sublimely beautiful, so supremely blissful, that I couldn’t help but call it Love.”  -Michael Divine

I am grateful to have taken the time to sit with a coffee table book. I miss it already like a vacation I took to a place that I long to visit again. I am  eager to journey into many others like it to give myself a much-needed break from hours at my glowing screen. If you haven’t done so in a while, give yourself some time to cuddle up to an art book. This Sublime Dance is a great place to start.