Monthly Archives: April 2014

Overview: Trailing Sky Six Feathers

We are all staring into the abyss: climate change, ecosystem and financial collapse, nuclear breakdown, corruption, terrorism and anarchy. Instead of being eaten up by it all I say, “Awaken Spiritually,” as that transforms everything. We have made our world an unpredictable beast because we fail to work with it intelligently. We have to take back control of ourselves and this is a spiritual matter. Turning on the switch of awakening is a good idea right now.

Trailing Sky Six Feathers sheds light on issues that will affect our world for generations to come. This exciting Hero’s Journey is like Indiana Jones meets the Buddha with a dash of Celestine Prophecy. The story told shines light on the darkest elements of the human condition, including my own. This challenging journey has me stumbling through the first part of life, then standing strong in my own sovereignty in the latter part. In India, Arizona, France and Canada’s wilderness, I go to extraordinary lengths to transform four centuries of karma.

SKU-000915196_COVER_V2.indd

I am an Editor, Poet, Professor Emeritus, Founder of Friends for Peace, Spiritual Warrior for Planetary Care, Peace and Social Justice. In this book I navigate past and present life experiences from brutal raids on Indian settlements in 18th century Arizona, insane sea voyages off the Scottish Hebrides in the 20th century to surrender to The Muse in the 21st century. These screenplay epics weave together to create inspiration for a wide range of spiritual seekers, environmentalists, Generation X, feminists, younger generation and academics alike.

We follow my journey to accept The Muse capable of transforming karma from violence and abuse to clarity and purpose. Readers will travel the pages as I learn to embrace The Muse, Trailing Sky Six Feathers, a South Western Native American wife and medicine woman in whose arms I died in 1777. She vows to find me to complete my purpose despite resistance from my highly intellectual mind in this lifetime.

My severe and challenging journey includes shamanic healings of childhood sexual abuse, guru training as well as a near death experience in an ashram in India. Trailing Sky Six Feathers initiates a dream vision in 2008 that caps my slow process of remembering a clear mosaic of experience stretching back in time two hundred and thirty one years. Over a period of thirty years, four extraordinary medicine people enhance my process of remembering, while Trailing Sky waits patiently from the distant past. I learn how to reconfigure my understanding of time, place, consciousness and Carl Jung’s psychology. I choose to listen to the feminine voice of Earth Wisdom rather than to the multitude of competing voices in my deep unconscious.

Readers will be inspired as they watch my intention and strength of purpose to transcend harmful patterns carried since childhood. Past life memories collide head on with the present, all thanks to the persistence of Trailing Sky Six Feathers, the Muse who refused to give up on me. Karma is reversed, the internal battles are over as I begin to live life as a Meditation for Gaia. The relentless shadowing by this engaging Muse brings understanding not only to me, but to anyone engaged in overcoming the darkness of their past.

This book caps my long-term fascination with consciousness. As a Professor of Anthropology and Religion I taught courses on Ecology, Symbols, Engaged Buddhism and Meditation Systems. I am a healer, mentor and educator, able to encourage people through example to find their true nature so that humanity and the world may be renewed. This story is offered as a gift to our planet. My purpose in life is to share my wealth of experience on how to live in harmony not just with ourselves but with the place we call home… earth.

Tipi

In 2010, after an intense internal dialogue with my Muse, Trailing Sky Six Feathers, I asked if I should write her story. There was a long silence that stretched into infinity until I finally heard her affirmation. I stood up and reached for my backpack and took out a writing pad. There was a gold plated fountain pen in the pack, rarely used. I inserted an ink cartridge into the pen and sat in a chair overlooking the sea and mountains on the west coast of British Columbia. Putting pen to paper I started to write the first line of this book:
“Put down your weapons, my husband,” she said quietly with steely insistence.

Trailing Sky Six Feathers and Internal Discernment

My journey and resistance to the Muse over four centuries certainly had its moments. They inspired deep reflections about insight and discernment. To say that Trailing Sky Six Feathers became my inner compass misses the point. The indescribable, palpable truth is that this deep source of feminine wisdom was not only lodged in my mind, it was integrated with my total being. My conversations with Trailing Sky opened up the past for my understanding. These dialogs were very different from Carl Jung’s “Red Book,” as I chose one voice to listen to rather than a multitude of competitors in my deep unconscious.

SKU-000915196_COVER_V2.indd

The daily conversations with Trailing Sky took place in a mental meditation wheel. This was taught to me by my medicine woman mentor, White Eagle Woman. She had taught me how to create a mental medicine wheel early in my training with her. I was always to start by bringing into my mind the ancient shaman from the East, then the South, West and North in succession. Finally I was to bring in the ancient shaman from the Centre in. She instructed me to see this as a map in my mind, the foundation for a personal mandala. Next, I was instructed by White Eagle Woman to call forth the animal guides I had personally experienced, again starting from the East. I had experienced many animal guides and told her so. White Eagle Woman retorted with some exasperation:
“Choose the most powerful ones, dammit.”

With that cryptic encouragement, I chose mountain lion in the East, moose in the South, deer in the West and medicine bear in the North, with dolphin and whale below and the great eagles above. The space at the centre of the medicine wheel was a still-point, a safety zone and conduit for different time/space conjunctions. It became the meeting place for my later dialogs with Trailing Sky. The dialogs with Trailing Sky expanded my mind beyond its logical limitations. There were certainly times that I did not understand, but never, ever was Trailing Sky incorrect. There was something primordial about her all seeing wisdom that was now infusing me, so that I could live and love better. Major lessons in radical self-correction were received through respectful engagement with this very deep Muse. Greater wisdom, compassion and understanding emerged, so that I could engage more intelligently with the travails of life and teach that way of being to others. It made the prophecy of the Deer card, drawn at the medicine wheel with Yaqui guide Sam in Sedona (2007), come alive.
Bringer of the message of a new paradigm resting on gentleness and compassion that serves the Earth Mother and penetrates all beings – no matter how wounded they may be. With great courage the Deer clears the path for others to reach their destiny with Spirit by taking away fear.

Death and Dying

In my family and culture there is very little discussion about death and dying, though as a child I did have an intuitive understanding. When my grandfather died I felt him as a tangible presence when he was in his coffin. I quietly whispered to this gracious being: “Go to Heaven now grandpa.” I also remember at his wake how upset I became by my relatives drinking, arguing and being disrespectful to one another. In tears I sought out my grandmother and complained that everyone was making it hard for my grandpa to go to Heaven. She listened carefully to me and wiped my tears away. Then walked into the living room of her house and with quiet authority asked everyone to go home. It was much later in life, once I was exposed to Buddhist teachings on death and dying, that I realized I was not such a crazy kid after all. I had cared for my grandfather’s consciousness after his physical death. Much later in life, I knew that preparation for death was also training for life, though I did not always pay attention to this insight.

I was intrigued by the opportunity for liberation at the time of death, though I could see clearly that my ego and habits were obstacles in the way. I did want to be able to merge my consciousness at the time of death with what the Sufis call “the great magnificence.” Or if I got confused and fearful at the time of death – to receive guidance to do so. I felt that if my death is aware, then in the final state of becoming, my consciousness would take a form that would serve Mother Earth and all sentient beings. I liked this idea of recycling – it appealed to the ecologist within me! This retraining was done fitfully, not in a consistent manner until just before I left for India. There, the preparation became a daily practice of being aware of universal consciousness totally prepared to merge with my pitifully weak and not-so-awakened-mind. My leap of faith was that these understandings about death and dying were all in my mind. This meant that in everyday living I could use my mind to take the steps to prepare for that final moment of merging with the wisdom mind of the universe and do this while I was alive. Perhaps the “alive” bit is the whole point!

Ian in India

During my training as a guru in India I became seriously ill, but was not surprised by the lack of panic. I clearly remember Saturday, December 21, 1996 as if it were yesterday. On that day I let go of all attachments to my body and surrendered to a sense of freedom never before experienced. Throughout the day and evening I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Blooming of a Lotus from cover to cover, practicing meditations that spoke to me. I was living in a small ashram in the city of Mumbai – reserved for saints and holy men. I did not qualify for either category, yet felt their grace close at hand. One humorous manifestation of that grace occurred one morning when I woke up to find a visiting Swami sitting by my bedside. He smiled broadly and helped me to sit up, then surprised me with his words: “We are all so happy that you have decided to die in India with us, if indeed you are to die. And we will be even happier if you live.” The Swami just beamed love and understanding to me. My reply, as best I remember, was to just say: “Me too!” He made me some tea with herbs, provided a blessing and then left. When I went to sleep that Saturday night I was content and happy. Diary entries chart the journey.

Thay Bowing (2)

CAROLYN’S DIARY
December 12, 1996:
Ian called. He is so sick that he can hardly talk and his voice is unrecognizable. A cold chill ran down my spine. He says he’s had surgery and that his systems are all crashing, one by one. But he’s not afraid. I believe he is not afraid of dying if that is what’s happening. What can I do? My first instinct is to go to India, to be with him, to care for him, but no, he says this is a journey he must go through alone. I am so worried. All I can do is surround him with light and love. And I pray, I pray that God will care for him, make him well and keep him safe. Dad is in the hospital dying from heart disease, two open-heart surgeries in the last month. The doctors are amazed that he is still living. I wonder if he is afraid to die. I’m being forced to look at death, my fears, at my attachments. I cry. Dad has been ill for many years and I know he will not likely survive this ordeal, but Ian. Ian is too young. His life work is not done. He still has so much to offer.

Ian speaks about the possibility of death with such calm. He’s not afraid, but I am. I don’t want to lose him. I am not prepared to let him go. Over the phone from India, Ian teaches me about no birth and no death, that we continue living in all that we touch, simply a different manifestation than our physical bodies. But this is too difficult for me to accept at the moment. I am attached. I do not want to let him go. Ian directs me to the teachings on impermanence and encourages me to meditate on the Buddha’s Five Remembrances: being of the nature to grow old, the nature to become ill, the nature to die, the nature for all things to change and knowing that we will be separated from those we hold dear and that our only true possessions are the consequences of our actions.

MY DIARY ENTRY, DECEMBER 20, 1996:
Prem Kutir Ashram, Mumbai, India
Feel weaker than ever this morning. Could hardly make it from my bed to the bathroom. Hope the saints who have passed through this little ashram are casting a protective eye over me. Perhaps they can cheer up Chotolal, the Nepali cook here, who has become quite anxious, especially as I have not had the energy or inclination to eat the special dishes he prepares. He is watching me write in my diary, so I will change hands and write with my left hand so he can laugh and feel less anxious about me. It worked!

Why have I become so ill? All my bodily systems have gone off line. Is there some major purification going on in my body, is there something I do not see? What lessons are there? Or are my days drawing to a close in the silence of this ashram? My blood tests from the hospital show that I am low and deficient in just about every category and the medications only make me feel worse. So many questions and worries yet they do not seem totally important. I ask them then they fade away. It is a bit strange. A few days ago, I collapsed and passed out while at dinner at Madhuma’s house. I know that she and her family would take me in, yet this saint’s refuge is where I feel most comfortable right now. The quiet and simplicity of the place speaks to me. I guess it allows me to prepare for death.
Have been in an almost constant state of meditation for weeks now. A deep quiet silence. Making entries in this diary is almost an interruption. Yesterday, Tom and Bev phoned from Tucson in the States and it was wonderful to talk to them. They sent prayers from the desert. Another friend, Barbara, from Michigan also phoned. She tunes into me very closely and was sufficiently alarmed to offer to fly to Mumbai and take me back to the States to get well in her home. Their love and care is very moving, but I know that whatever is to happen is to be here in India.

It was not easy to communicate this to Carolyn, but I do believe she understands. My prayer is that she does not suffer unduly. Have sent Chotolal to buy some cards and stamps for me. The cards are beautifully hand painted on pipal leaves with pictures of the Buddha, Krishna dancing and other such scenes. Want to make sure I finish my Christmas list. Sending Christmas cards to friends and loved ones. Feel such a calm about all this that would normally surprise the heck out of me. The calm is just there, sitting with me, just fine.
I know there is a distinct possibility I will not live beyond Christmas and want to send out a Christmas message from India:“Blessings and Love from Ian.” Writing the cards has exhausted me, but I feel satisfied and full, mission accomplished. Chotolal brought in a package of mail from Canada: letters and cards from family and friends, a framed photograph of Carolyn, my dearest friend and companion. Made me very happy, also made me cry as I thought of friends I may not see again. Yet they were strange tears, not full of sorrow or anything, just tears as I thought of loving friends.

I keep falling asleep very quietly then waking up very quietly. Sleep is like a light breeze that seems to visit now and then. Ate a little bit of dinner to allay Chotolal’s anxiety, but it is my supply of rice malt and vitamin C that is keeping me going. Chotolal placed some fruit and water on the table by my bed, then left to spend the next day with Nepali friends in another part of the city, taking my pile of Christmas cards to post. I am enjoying the silence and solitude, now that he has left. It is about nine o’clock in the evening and I am drifting off to sleep on gentle wings.

DIARY ENTRY, DECEMBER 21, 1996:
Prem Kutir Ashram, Mumbai, India
Waking up was easy, getting up was a struggle but did that in stages. The quiet and silence inside the ashram is quite palpable and almost visible. I remembered my shamanic training with White Eagle Woman. Had a dream about her during the night, but do not recall all the details. I do remember that she told me to construct a mental medicine wheel around me and include all my spiritual ancestors. Did that and feel an incredible constellation of energies, like millions of guardian angels from everywhere.

Took some fruit and returned to my book of meditations and began to read slowly, stopping frequently to close my eyes and feel the words. Have no sense of time or space today, as each meditation seems to move me with its own measure and carry me along. Feel such a deepening in my heart, all the way inside my body. Aware that there is no fear or panic, just a simple and happy acceptance. That is all that is there. I have never experienced anything like this. Have no thought of anything and feel deeply content for no apparent reason. Is this surrender? Peace with God? No flashing lights, visitations, or visions, only a quiet surrender and being with the inevitability of it all, whatever “THAT” is.

DIARY ENTRY, DECEMBER 22, 1996:
Prem Kutir Ashram, Mumbai, India
I woke up this morning, heard two crows saying hello from the tree outside the window. Feel so happy to be alive. Chotolal is singing in the kitchen and rattling his pots and pans, so I will celebrate this new day with a little breakfast. That will make us both very happy. A clear insight that this “death” is a spiritual one, as is the “rebirth.” I feel completely new this morning, as though I have been rewired and plugged into sockets with a bigger voltage. Part of my preparation to continue moving along the path of understanding.

Vesak Day Celebration in Ottawa

The Ottawa Vesak Day and Asian Heritage Month celebrations and ceremony, will be attended by Thailand’s Ambassador to Canada, His Excellency Pisan Manawapat, the Hon. Senator Vernon White, the Hon. MP Royal Galipeau, the Hon. Yasir Naqvi, Minister of Labour, MPP, Jack MacLaren, MPP, Mayor Jim Watson, Ottawa City Councillors Shad Qudri and Marianne Wilkinson and various diplomatic dignitaries on Sunday, May 4th at Ottawa City Hall. Event highlights include messages from the Governor General, the Prime Minister, and the Premier of Ontario. There will also be speeches by the Ambassador of Thailand, Mayor Jim Watson and the Founder of Vesak Day in Ottawa and Sirin Chairman, Visita Leelaratna. Through the efforts and collaboration of various inter-cultural groups, the Vesak and Asian Heritage Month festivities will also be attended by the Ottawa community at large. The celebrations will also feature Sanga chanting for World Peace, cultural performances and art displays from Ottawa’s diverse Asian communities.
Members of the public are welcome to attend the festivities at Jean Pigott Place, City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue West from 13:00 to 16:30. Admission is free.

This is a unique opportunity for Ottawa to participate in the multi-cultural celebrations of Asian Heritage and mark Vesak Day which commemorates the Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing. In addition, the occasion will be used for an inspirational talk on cyber-bullying by Carleton Professor Emeritus Dr. Ian Prattis, the Zen teacher at Pine Gate. The delivery of the official proclamation of “Vesak Day” by Mayor Jim Watson will be at 14:00. There will be a number of performances at the festivities. The Thai Dance Troupe of Ottawa (TDO), and People’s Choice Awards Winner 2009 sponsored by the Royal Thai Embassy will present the Homage to Lord Buddha, a fifteen minute journey through time, music, and dance which celebrates the Birth of Lord Buddha. Sri Lankan Hevisi drummers will lead the Sanga procession. Seniors from the Chinese Senior Support Centre in Kanata will perform a dance called Happy Together and a Vietnamese Buddhist youth group in Ottawa will perform the Lion Dance.

Thai Dancers

Light refreshments will follow the performance portion and from 15:30 to 16:30 attendees will be free to visit and enjoy the booths and beautiful art displays. A highlight of this special day will be the display of seven of the world’s most beautiful statues of the Awakened One: the Buddha, celebrating his message of peace. The day’s activities will wind down with “a day of compassion” which will encourage people to reaffirm their determination to practice loving-kindness.
Program: Ottawa City Hall, May 4, 1.00pm – 4.30pm
1:00 pm: Visiting Booths and Art Display
1:25 pm: Sangha Procession into the hall with Sri Lankan Temple Drums
1:30 pm: Canadian National Anthem
1:35 pm: MC Acknowledgements for Vesak and Asian Heritage
1:40 pm: Sangha Chanting for World Peace
2:00 pm: VIP Messages from:
1. Governor General, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston: Hon Senator Vernon White
2. Prime Minister Stephen Harper: Hon MP Royal Galipeau
3. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne: Hon MPP Yasir Naqvi
Speeches:
1. Thailand Ambassador to Canada, Pisan Manawapat ;
2. Founder of Sirin and Vesak in Ottawa, Visita Leelaratna,
3. “Vesak Day” Proclamation by Mayor Jim Watson
2:20 pm: Vietnamese Youth Group Dance
2:30 pm: Inspirational Talk on “Can We Stop Cyberbullying?” By Dr. Ian Prattis
2:45 pm: “Homage to Lord Buddha” Thai dance troupe
3:00 pm: Chinese dance group
3:15 pm: Lion Dance by Vietnamese Youth group
3:30 pm: THANK YOU – MC’s final statements
Refreshment and Visiting Booths and Beautiful Art Display until 4:30 pm
4:30 pm: End of Program
http://www.VesakinOttawa.com

Vesak Invitation May 4 20141 (2)

Pine Gate Mindfulness Community and Asian Buddhist communities in Ottawa – from Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand – worked together to bring about the Vesak Celebration. The 2014 Vesak Festival had the good fortune to receive guidance from three spiritual advisors: Master Bon Dat, Bhante Rath Sam and Dharmacharya Ian Prattis. They each come from different Buddhist traditions in Ottawa and three different countries – Vietnam, Cambodia, Canada. They established a common cause to spread the seeds of Buddha Mind across Ottawa for the Vesak Festival in Ottawa City Hall, Jean Pigott Place, on May 4, by creating an atmosphere of generosity, humility and kindness. Organization meetings were held during the winter months in the various temples in the city and at Pine Gate. The three advisors ushered in a consensus that donations taken in on Vesak Day would support the education of young boys and girls in Cambodia. Education was seen as a vital antidote to the trafficking of children in that country.
Buddhism is a religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, who lived and taught in India ca. 2,600 years ago. There are an estimated 550 million people in the world who identify Buddhism as their religion or way of life. While most live in Asia, Buddhism is recognized as the fastest growing religion in Western societies.
Vesākha Day is the day Buddhists remember the birth, the enlightenment, and the passing away of the Buddha. The United Nations marks Vesākha Day as an official holiday, worldwide. As Buddhism spread from India, it was adapted to many cultures, and consequently Vesākha Day is celebrated in many different ways in various countries, such as China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Burma, Tibet, Bhutan, Thailand, and Nepal, the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama.
Some will visit their local temple before dawn, to raise the official Buddhist flag, which represents a rainbow. Some may bring simple offerings of flowers, candles and incense, which serve as a reminder that just as the beautiful flowers will wither, and the candles burn out, so too is life subject to impermanence. In some countries, birds and animals are released in a symbolic act of liberation.
On Vesākha Day, Buddhist practitioners are encouraged to reiterate their determination to lead noble lives, to practice loving-kindness and to bring peace of mind to themselves and peace to the world. This is done by “going for refuge” in the Buddha (the human being, who through right effort, is able to free him/herself), the Dharma (the teachings the Buddha left for us), and the Sangha (the Buddhist community of monastics and lay practitioners, which has continued, unbroken, for 2,600 years).

Buddha Picture

In the West, the coming together of various cultures fosters ecumenism, which is one characteristic of the new Buddhism taking root here. Vesākha Day is therefore a time when we reach out across the various Buddhist traditions to celebrate, and to non-Buddhists to enjoy dialogue and harmony.