Why Imagination Matters

Allowing time each day for your awareness to drift into dreams and imagination is essential. Many of the realities we take for granted, like flying in airplanes, messaging friends on the internet, or talking on a cell phone all started in the realm of imagination and dreams. Yet in our busy lives we rarely allow the time and space to be informed by this inherent and mysterious aspect of our awareness. This resource within our brain is not only for artists and mystics, it can serve as a powerful, visionary, and therapeutic tool for each of us if we know how to work with it.

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One of my favorite books over the years is The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. It is more than a book, it is a way of life. The book contains exercises to open the creative mind that are proven to be successful for decades among artists of all types. A key component of the program is Morning Pages. It is an exercise in writing from a place of flow… no stopping to think, edit, or use correct grammar. Just tap into flow consciousness and see what emerges. I highly recommend the book to anyone wanting to learn this precious skill for opening the mind.

Another great article about opening up to the power inherent within dreams is by Anthony Colombo of Dreamspace called Why Sleep When You Can Dream Awake. Colombo introduces the powerful concept of incubation as a core component of dreamwork to inform and transform your life. He has also developed a powerful step-by-step process for incubating and recalling dreams while bringing conscious intention to personal dreamwork.

“Conscious incubation involves being mindful of what you tell yourself internally and what you expose yourself to in the world. These internally and externally generated experiences help shape or incubate the reality you will create during subsequent dreaming and waking states.”
– Anthony Colombo, Dreamspace

Opening up to the emergent is a process that is important for creative projects and collaboration. It means that you have to allow for the unknown, that you aren’t working from a set script, and are allowing yourself to be open to whatever emerges. For obvious reasons, this can be a tough skill to learn since we are used to setting up expectations and having some degree of control over outcomes. The creative process, dreams, and the realm of imagination often work in non-linear ways so be prepared for unexpected surprises!

Jason Silva has rocked the internet with his video rants that explode with inspiration like fireworks full of color. Jazz musicians do it when they improvise, free-style rappers do it with spoken word, visionary artists do it when they live-paint, there is a flowing river of creativity within our consciousness that all of us have access to… all we have to do is open up to it and let it come through. This takes a little practice but it may hold the keys to unlocking a better future for humanity!

“Creativity comes through you but not from you and though it is with you it belongs not to you.”
– Jason Silva


Imagination is key, our dreams hold much wisdom for us if we know how to listen. The ability to adapt, to tune in to the creative impulses, to invite conscious flow into our lives can have a profoundly transformative effect. Take a moment to step back from your schedule, from your expectations and watch the clouds slowly dance across the sky. Allow some space for the unexpected, the unscripted, and then watch the ways that you learn to flow and adapt with what arises.

It is clear that we face many issues as a species on planet earth, but throughout time we have always found a way to innovate and overcome the hurdles that we face. It may very well be that time again when we can no longer look to what has worked in the past but dream something new that will work for our future. Possibilities are endless!

Article originally appeared on UPLIFT

Wisdom of an Andean Mystic

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 12.03.19 PMFew people realize that the Hopi Tribe of Northern Arizona have clans that are descendants of tribes from the northernmost to southernmost tips of the Americas (and quite possibly beyond that). The Q’ero are believed to be descendants of the Inca, who fled high into the Andes where they successfully hid from outsiders until recent decades. Kenosis Spirit Keepers had created the cultural exchange program, and Don Americo Yabar was playing a central role in translating between cultural leaders. I was brought along by Carla Woody to help document and assist Hopi elder, Harold Joseph.

Our first destination after reaching Cusco was the giant stone remnants of Sacsayhuaman, the historical capital of the Inca. An architectural marvel and modern day mystery, the walls are made of impossibly large stones that are beveled and stacked perfectly without mortar.

Upon entering the site, my Hopi friend who had never been there before pointed and said, “We must go there and find a snake carving to make an offering before we explore the site.” He said that the structure was built to correspond to the tallest mountain and is oriented the same way they oriented the Hopi Villages on the Mesas. To my surprise he walked us directly to a a giant snake that had been built into the wall that fit his description where we made an offering of Hopi Corn.

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The giant stone remnants of Sacsayhuaman

Sacred sites and ceremony

Days later we had our first meeting with the Q’ero and Don Americo Yabar outside of Cusco. From here we all traveled together to sacred sites for ceremony and stories around the fire. I particularly enjoyed tagging along with Don Americo who is playful and poetic in his words, mannerisms and way of life. Being with him in nature reminded me of being a child, where the landscape surrounding us was alive and filled with stories.

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Above: Harold Joseph (left), and Don Americo Yabar

Standing by a river he told me how the Inca had so much energy. He said that they never drew their energy from their own internal battery, instead they drew it from the stars, the land, all of the universe. He demonstrated, with eyes closed and palms open towards the raging white-water of the river:

“Breath this power in through every pour in your body, through the palms of your hands, and the breath that enters your lungs. That is the power of the Inca, the power of the Andes.”

To this day I use this practice and feel that I have increased my ability to absorb energies from the land. Give it a try at a power spot near you. In our modern society based on individualism, we have cut ourself off from the greater source of life that surrounds us.

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Chucuito fertility shrine

Another profound experience was visiting the ancient Chucuito fertility shrine with giant stone penises. I had seen the overtly sexual Inca carvings and artwork at gift shops along my travels and thought they were humorously perverse. Yabar looked at us as we stood in the shrine and said:

You’re bodies are very angry… 500 years of being told by the church that your natural urge for pleasure, connection, and procreation is sinful. Inca knew that there is no spiritual knowledge without first having a clear connection to nature and sexuality.

Standing behind us at the shrine was a church with a steeple that had penises on the top instead of a cross. Some say that the site is a hoax put there for tourists but the Inca were clearly uninhibited about sexuality.
Q’ero and Hopi Spirit Keepers Share Traditions

We are shaped by the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we believe, and the stories our culture tells us. Undoubtedly the Church, commercialism, and colonialism have influenced our thinking and our culture even if we are not actively religious. What would our society look like if we were taught to connect with the energies of nature, if pleasure and connection were considered sacred instead of sinful? Well I guess that sounds pretty ‘Pagan’ and I’m okay with that…

Ending the Conquest of Nature

I think every child knows what it’s like to build a dam of pebbles in a creek, or try to build a wall around a sand castle to protect it from incoming waves. It’s a fun challenge but nature always wins. Strange as it sounds, this desire to pursue the conquest of nature has historical roots and global consequences. From Mao’s Cultural Revolution to the rise of Christianity and birth of Newtonian Science after the Dark Ages, humanity has been fumbling with this core dilemma of how we relate to our environment. Luckily we have some new fields of study and words to deepen our sense of this important relationship.

Eco-psychology

Eco-psychology is based on the principle that our environment shapes our psychology. There is some interesting research about Bonobo Chimpanzee in the Congo. They are often considered one of our closest-related primates. The Bonobo who live north of the Congo River live in a lush environment with plenty of food, are matriarchal, cooperative, and have very little violence. Whereas the same species south of the Congo River, where food is less abundant and the land is more like desert, are patriarchal, genocidal, infanticidal, and live in a constant state of war. There is still much research to be done before there are any final conclusions, but observations point to environmental factors having dramatic influence on social behavior.

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There is a book, Saharasia, which even postulates that climate change and desertification over millennia created epigenetic and neurological changes, turning human cultures more patriarchal and warlike. Some say that the plagues and dark ages that Europeans went through prior to the Renaissance played a role in shaping a cultural relationship with nature. Since so many people were dying from the Black Death, a belief system that humans were being punished by God or being punished by nature began to take hold. This entrenched two divergent world views: the sinner/redemption story of Christianity (religion) and the Newtonian Cartesian Paradigm (mechanistic science).

Mechanism stresses an unbridgeable gulf between human beings and the physical world. Human consciousness has no role or place in Newton’s vast world machine. This sense of an alien physical realm was extended, in association with Christian influence, to the wider world of nature. Nature is perceived as wholly ‘other’ than ourselves, a force to be conquered and used. –Spiritual Intelligence: The Ultimate Intelligence, by Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall

Clearly there is a historical divide between the world of spirit and the physical, so it is no wonder that some people see themselves as separate from nature. Since Europeans went on to colonize a great portion of the world, they also forced this world-view on many of the indigenous cultures they invaded. Today we see this belief playing out with ill consequences.

If it was the fate of our existence in hostile environments of the past that shaped our ways of thinking, perhaps we can hack our own biology with concepts that allow us to experience a sense of harmony and connection with our environment?

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Biomimicry

Biomimicry is another term that helps us bridge the gap and conceptualize our place within the surrounding environment. The Biomimicry Institute says it best:

Humans are clever, but without intending to, we have created massive sustainability problems for future generations. Fortunately, solutions to these global challenges are all around us.

Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. The goal is to create products, processes, and policies—new ways of living—that are well-adapted to life on earth over the long haul.

The core idea is that nature has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. After billions of years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival.

We are not without our problems today, but if you have a moment to sit in front of a computer and read this blog, perhaps you have a moment to reconsider your relationship with the world around you. Do you feel like you struggle with your environment or do you feel supported by it? Is there a way that you might change your perspective to allow harmony with the flow of events in your life?

Acceptance, gratitude, compassion are spiritual attributes that make real changes in the way we live in the physical world. There are many modalities that have been used for centuries like meditation, prayer, yoga to achieve a heightened state of awareness and connection with the great life force that surrounds us. This is an internal shift, nobody can force it on you, it must be chosen.

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We are at a cross-roads, we can destroy our environment, or use our wisdom to enhance and heal with it. What is certain is that our attempted conquest of nature is ultimately futile, like trying to hold back the tides. Are you ready to let go of the struggle to conquer your environment and open up to unlimited possibilities?

If so, you are not alone. Find your tribe, surround yourself by others who are making the internal shift towards a lifestyle that allows for harmony within and around you. Then we can truly start working with the rhythms of nature rather than against them. When science and spirituality compliment each other rather than clash we shall see some very profound changes in the way we interact with our environment.

The World Needs Aloha

Beautiful beaches, rainbows, tropical fruits and epic hiking make Hawaii one of the worlds most popular tourist destinations. Simultaneously this small island chain represents a microcosm of global issues and a cultural tradition rich with solutions that can benefit communities around the planet. The word aloha is commonly understood to represent “I love you”, “hello”, and “goodbye” but it is much more than that. Aloha is a way of living that embraces the larger interconnected web of relationships surrounding us in nature along with our responsibility to be respectful custodians within this web of life. Currently this way of life is being threatened on the islands and all over the world so Hawaiians have embraced creative ways to re-awaken us all to the beauty that is possible.

Using Hawaiian language grammatical rules, we will translate this (aloha) literally as “The joyful sharing of life energy in the present” or simply “Joyfully sharing life”. The Deeper meaning of Aloha

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The finite ecosystem of an island can teach us a whole lot as we begin to recognize the finite resources on our whole planet. Ancient Hawaiians were masters at regenerative agriculture, working with nature to increase abundance of food, fresh water, and fertile soil. The year-round growing season has made Hawaii a great place for experiments in permaculture. It has also attracted biotech industries like Monsanto and Syngenta.

A recent film Aina, That Which Feeds Us takes a deeper look at the ways that the biotech industry runs contrary to the cultural heritage of the islands. AINA means “that which feeds us” in the Hawaiian language. This 23 minute film highlights a way to address some of the most pressing environmental and health crises facing the island of Kauaʻi, and of island Earth. You can watch the full film for free on their website as well as get involved locally to promote more sustainable and regenerative farming practices through the films inspiring educational message.

Permaculture is the practice of producing food, energy, etc, using ways that do not deplete the earth’s natural resources. It is a system of perennial agriculture emphasizing the use of renewable natural resources and the enrichment of local ecosystems.

AINA trailer

Hawaii was also recently in the news as negotiators around the world converged in Maui to finalize talks on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). This corporate trade deal will effect many pacific rim nations and also runs counter to the basic aloha principle of sharing resources while respecting the land and the people. Since TPP paves the way for corporate exploitation, local protestors used a traditional way to bring attention to this secret deal. The event drew international exposure as hundreds of people surrounded the building where negotiations were being held and blew conch shells.

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Because the islands sit in the vast ocean with mountainous peaks, it is one of the best places for star-gazing. The Polynesian People have a great history of navigating the oceans by observing the night sky. Recently, a thirty meter telescope (TMT) was proposed to be placed at the top of the watershed on Mauna Kea. Despite a love for astronomy and science, this telescope threatened the finite water source on the island. The issue also put an international spotlight on the colonial roots of science, and put Hawaiian culture center-stage in a global discussion. Is it okay to reach for the stars if we can’t take care of our own eco-system? This concept was explored in a recent blog, De-Colonialize Astronomy.

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Hawaii is a gem on our beautiful planet. It is a great place to visit and explore, but it’s greatest gift may be in the culture itself. The land has informed this rich culture for centuries and today we have an opportunity to embrace this universal wisdom and consider it in the context of contemporary global issues. How do we protest unsustainable and unjust policies while bringing positive change using respectful and creative practices? Hawaii has the answer… The world needs more Aloha!

Indigenous Roots of the English Language

Respect for native wisdom and spirituality is long overdue, but those of European descent need to also know their own forgotten indigenous heritage.

While many people are actively trying to honor indigenous ways and heal historical wounds leftover from colonialism, many who have European roots are completely oblivious of their own pre-colonial history. In Europe after the Roman Empire decimated most of the tribal communities, France, Britain, and Spain began colonial practices that spread oppressive policies around the world as well as at home. The modern concept of the elite 1% was alive and well during the middle ages and going back far into antiquity. White indigenous people living in tribal ways long ago were oppressed and ripped from their traditional connection to the land just as Native Americans were. In order to have healing across cultures and peace in this world, it is important to know your own past and heal the wounds of your own lineage.

““Who will find peace with the lands? The future of humankind lies waiting for those who will come to understand their lives and take up their responsibilities to all living things. Who will listen to the trees, the animals and birds, the voices of the places of the land? As the long forgotten peoples of the respective continents rise and begin to reclaim their ancient heritage, they will discover the meaning of the lands of their ancestors.” –Vine Deloria, Jr.

I was very lucky to be initiated and taught rune songs as well as migration stories as a young adult. I learned them first in the oral tradition while sitting with my auntie making beadwork and crafts. It was a revelation to realize that some wisdom is better spoken than written, and I have struggled ever since to strike a balance between what is appropriate to write about and what is not. I have found that knowing my own cultural history has opened many doors for me in connecting with diverse people whose cultures I respect and admire.

Bind-Rune with all 24 original runes in one mark.

Recognizing how subjugation and colonial practices continue to hurt people of all ethnic backgrounds is part of the much needed healing. Irish slaves, indentured servants, serfs, and witch-burnings were common traumas for the newcomers to America. Having escaped many of the horrors of the old world, these settlers armed with guns were quite savage in their treatment of Native Americans. Identifying these historical traumas does not justify them, but it helps to inform some of the attitudes that came with the early settlers. It is understood in the field of psychology that children who are treated violently or with abuse have a greater propensity to enact that behavior as adults.

(Pictured above: Bind-Rune with all 24 runes in 1 mark)

The English Language which came from the old world has sadly been forced by oppressive military and exploitative business practices. However it is evolved from an ancient tribal language that was once etched on stones, and told through songs and stories around the council fires. The Runic Language (Alphabet), the Elder Futhark is the root of many of the characters that are now the letters of the English Alphabet.

It is true that we are “sentenced” to perceive the world through stories. That words are “spells” made from spelling. The invention of the printing press allowed for oppression and suppression in ways that never existed before it (notice “press” right in the middle of words like “impress”, “suppress”, “repress”). Books were bound (like people), and covered (like much of our indigenous history). Authority was given to the authors of these stories whether through the laws of the kingdom, or Biblical Law. The keepers of the peoples stories, whether the church, or the kingdom became the ruler of the people.

In the olden days people knew their stories through the oral tradition, through a dance, or a song from a bard. These stories, and our understanding of our place in the world, was not owned or privatized. It was commonly shared and understood. That’s why the Runes were primarily an oral tradition with corresponding written marks. The passing of stories and wisdom through trusted personal networks kept them sacred.

The rune marks are said to be derived from the natural patterns in nature. You can see them in the veins of a trees leaves, in the cracks in dirt. Though they were carved onto stones, traditionally it was unacceptable to kill a tree to make paper to write words on. It is believed that the words and the characters (letters) are alive and they live in the vibrations of our human voices. An understanding of these concepts allowed a person to “read” messages into nature, and the 24 original characters are said to represent our 24 vertebrae. In this sense it is also believed that the runes represent our own internal genetic wisdom, giving us a way to see deeper into our own selves.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have an auntie or uncle to teach them rune songs but if you are interested in deepening your understanding of the mystical, indigenous heritage of the English Language, I highly recommend The Leaves of Yggdrasil by Freya Aswynn. Unlike most New Age interpretations of the runes which are relatively shallow, Freya is initiated in the oral tradition and was ordained to share some of these teachings in writing. It is a beautiful way to gain a deep cultural perspective on the indigenous world-view of Europeans that preceded religious, imperial conquest, and colonialism.

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” -Lilla Watson

The current interest in indigenous wisdom by non-natives is a high form of flattery though it is sometimes insensitive and comes across in unflattering ways. There is a yearning to connect with a forgotten past that is universal to all humans. When each of us connects with our own ancestral lineage we will see that we all share an inherent wisdom and memory of what it is to belong in the larger community of life that surrounds us.  It is time to rewrite the stories that separate us and understand that we don’t live in a hierarchy of species, we live within a sacred circle.

Culture Collective Director on Huffington Post!

You may have noticed that blog posts have become less frequent on the site lately. This is due to the fact that Jacob Devaney is now a contributing blogger to Huffington Post. Since HP receives much more traffic than this website, we have focused our outreach on these blogposts which you can also keep up on through our Facebook Fanpage. The second reason is that we have been SOOO busy with many new collaborations and projects. In the coming weeks we will be posting articles about these projects here on the site.

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