Category Archives: Wisdom of the Elders

Sacred Stalker

In 2014 I wrote a book: “Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse.” I was asked to write a speech from the perspective of what the writing meant to me. Here it is. Available through http://www.ianprattis.com/TrailingSky.html 

Sacred Stalker                                                                                     

 Several decades ago I became aware that I had a stalker. I would glance over my shoulder and feel a distinct presence. The presence was a woman from the 18th century. This was made known to me by a shaman mentor – White Eagle Woman – who made it clear that I was mistaken. This was no stalker. The female entity from the past was a medicine woman from the American Southwest. She was trying to bring powerful medicine gifts through to me in the 21st century, but I had not learned how to release my logical and intellectual mind, and certainly did not possess the wisdom to receive. She had a name – Trailing Sky Six Feathers.

Over time my stubborn resistance was no match for her determination. I ultimately surrendered to this Muse. I learned that I had died in her arms in 1777 and she swore to find me in the future to complete my purpose. Through her insistence I learned how to reconfigure my understanding of time, place and consciousness. She refused to give up on how dense I was and through her insistence, karma was reversed, the internal battles ceased and I learned to navigate past and present life experiences over four centuries.

The medicine gifts received from Trailing Sky during dream visions and shamanic journeys required that I nurture skills within me to use them wisely. I eventually remembered a clear mosaic of experiences stretching back to 1777. Past life memories collide head on with the present. The relentless shadowing by this Muse brought understanding and purpose to overcome the darkness of my past.

How did this all come about?

Many years ago when I was a young professor at Carleton University, I split my time between Ottawa and the Hebrides in Scotland. I was trying to create an academic career and at the same time save a failing marriage. I was not doing a good job with either. I had a boat – a 26 foot clinker built vessel with an inboard engine to enter the dangerous surrounding sea with tourists on board. I must have been really insane or totally desperate – perhaps both! One disastrous journey sears my mind. It was from Eriskay, to the north, back to my home on the Island of Barra. An unanticipated storm and dense fog quickly blew up to gale force winds. Disaster loomed from every option that was available to my mind. I stood braced at the wheel of this small craft with four tourists huddled on board. Fear was no longer guiding me, as I muttered the 23rd Psalm – “I shall not want.” I remember a terrible chilling silence come over me along with utter helplessness. The boat navigated through a narrow gap in an offshore rock spur, and the wheel spinned to avoid the sharp spine of another rock ledge.

I did not have that knowledge. I did not have that skill. They were not my hands on the wheel – something else had taken over as the boat slowly limped into the sheltered harbour after dark. I disembarked and walked to my house. I sat on the steps, as the storm ceased its fury and a crescent moon came out from the clouds. My reflections on the day were savage, yielding ugly truths I had long buried. I could take no credit for bringing the boat home safely. I thought of the furious sea as a piercing dirty grey, the color of dying – just waiting for me. I knew I had to put an end to my recklessness on the sea and in life. This was not where I was to be; either in this relationship I was trying to save or the location. The stressful drain on time and energy to travel back and forth between Canada and the Hebrides was debilitating. It left me with zero energy for my life purpose. Instead I was choosing the graceless oblivion that alcohol and depression permit.

I knew I had to emerge from the swamp I had created. This deadly sea voyage was the signal for me to embark on an intense spiritual journey. They were not my hands on the wheel. It took me a long time to realize that it was none other than Trailing Sky who saved my life at that instance – and on many other occasions.

It was no accident that on my return to Canada after the brutal sea voyage I first met White Eagle Woman at an elders gathering. She beckoned me over, looked me right in the eye and told me that she did not like me at all. Quite an introduction! She had been instructed by her ancestors to train me and it began straight away with an eight day vision quest. Her blunt introduction was a prelude to a thirty year period of training and healing under her guidance. She became a spiritual mentor and directed the shamanic process of my healing from childhood sexual abuse. This allowed the mosaic of the past to reveal itself. She also identified Trailing Sky for me and then taught me how to create a medicine wheel in my mind with a circle at the sacred centre. That was the location where I could dialog with Trailing Sky.

I also met a Rishi – a holy man from India who recognized me and insisted I go to India for spiritual training. I took leave from my university and spent two years as a yogi, where the spiritual treasures of India were opened to me. I also became seriously ill and knew there was a distinct possibility of death. I met this with calm and a total lack of fear. Huddled on a bed in an ashram in Mumbai, India – I opened my eyes to see one of my swami mentors. He said:

“We are so happy Ian that you have decided to die with us in India. And we will be most happy should you live.”

Lying there close to death, the lack of fear provided a sense of freedom. Trailing Sky was also there – constantly. She orchestrated all the energies to keep me alive. I later learned that she was there every time my life was at risk. That must have kept her very busy!! She brought me through to safety – time after time.

Trailing Sky is not an illusion, a projection that I am attached to. She is the ultimate Muse, constituting all that is now crystal clear within me. I am deeply humbled and privileged to touch this deep wisdom of transformation.

She said to me, “You have transformed all that you brought in with you and suffered from, You changed course and now have freedom and alignment. The person who stumbled blindly through the first part of your life is not the Ian walking through the second part of life. In India, Arizona, France, the Canadian wilderness and around the world you went to extraordinary lengths to deal with karma. Had you not done so – I would have to wait for several more lifetimes to come through to you. There were so many severe experiences, but you responded by moving in this spiritual direction. You touched a universal thread and that allowed me to close the gap – so I could keep my promise from 1777.”

The rest of my life is still a work in progress

 

Medicine Mentors in Canada

                                                         

                       White Eagle Woman

It was during a gathering of elders in 1978 that I first met White Eagle Woman where she announced that she did not like me at all! Her rebuke was perhaps well deserved, given how dense and unaware I must have seemed. My disjointed education and experience with the Native American domain of mysticism did, however, slowly evolve into a seamless pattern rather than remain as random knots stretching across an abyss.

The blunt introduction to White Eagle Woman was a prelude to a thirty year period of training and healing under her guidance. She was a heavy set woman with a round face and long black hair, but it was the air of quiet authority that pervaded her presence that immediately struck me. She rarely smiled, but when she did it illuminated the entire room when her dark eyes lit up with mirth. I was very fortunate to be in her hands. She was the first of three incredible medicine people in Canada who provided me with shamanic training and teachings over the next three decades. White Eagle Woman directed the shamanic process of my healing from childhood sexual abuse, and this allowed the mosaic of the past to start revealing itself.

Shamans and medicine people from far and wide came to consult with White Eagle Woman. Elders from the Amazon would come to see her. She was a holder of the Midewiwin lineage, a secret tradition of medicine people which stretched far and wide across the Americas. At that first encounter at the elder’s gathering she told me about a Vision Quest on her reserve in Sault Ste. Marie in south western Ontario. I was to be there, as she had received instructions from her ancestors to train me. That humbled me and was enough for my attendance.

The eight day Vision Quest began and finished with a sweat lodge. In between were six days of fasting, prayer and ceremony in the wilderness. White Eagle Woman located me in a small grove of birch and oak trees and I had to stay within a strictly designated area. The other seven participants in the Vision Quest were located in a different part of the forest, distant and unseen. I found some level ground for my tarp and strung it over a frame built from what I could find within the grove. I placed my coloured ribbons at each of the four directions, also for the realms of above and below. One of the oak trees became the symbolic stem of my pipe. The bowl of the pipe was a clamshell with tobacco in it. As the sun moved the tree’s shadow, I had to be alert and move the clamshell in the same direction around the base of the tree.

I was very still and silent, observing my territory’s nuances, the leaves, smells, insects and the rain, all while in a constant state of prayer and thanksgiving. White Eagle Woman located herself in a trailer close by for anyone who needed guidance. She indicated that a medicine bear would visit one of us and to report that to her. Time passed in a seamless flow, scarcely existing before we gathered for the final sweat lodge once the Vision Quest was over. On coming off the land, a surprise awaited. I had to consume a half cup of blueberries and then drink vast quantities of a foul tasting concoction created by White Eagle Woman. This was a cleansing medicine to make me throw up the blueberries. It was quite disgusting. Especially for me, as it took a long time before I vomited up the blueberries. White Eagle Woman’s comment to me was terse. She pursed her lips and looked at me quizzically:

“Hmmm – you’re holding on tight to resist the truth you need to know!”

I had no idea what she was referring to. White Eagle Woman asked about the medicine bear. Nobody reported experiencing it. In exasperation she turned to me and announced that she had seen the medicine bear visit me twice. What did I remember? I recalled dreaming about a tall, gangly and somewhat goofy creature that was not a bear to my mind. I had also noticed the creature on another day, out of the corner of my eye, sitting next to the sacred oak tree. White Eagle Woman immediately threw tobacco on the fire to absolve my ignorant gaffe and instructed me that a medicine bear can take on many forms. The goofy creature was the most receptive one for an idiot like me.

Though the medicine bear had been easy on me, White Eagle Woman was certainly not. She chastised my lack of insight while we were all in the sweat lodge. Later on, in private, she quietly revealed the door that had been opened wide due to the medicine bear experience. The visit was to assess whether I was capable of receiving medicine gifts from the past. White Eagle Woman identified the female entity that was trying to come through, as a medicine woman from the American southwest, before white settlement.  She even named her, Trailing Sky, and indicated that this entity was trying to come through to me in this 21st century. Further, that she would bring powerful medicine gifts and I had to find the wisdom to receive them.

The significance of what my mentor was saying did not penetrate very deeply, as I still placed intimations about the feminine in an intellectual, scholarly frame.  The only insight I had was a scholarly one that I was somehow engaging with the anima, a vital reflection of Jungian psychology. The real significance of the anima experience remained buried. White Eagle Woman sensed correctly that I was not open at this time to receive Trailing Sky’s presence, so she advised me to constantly dialogue with the internal feminine, directing me first of all to White Calf Buffalo Woman, a prominent source of Lakota Sioux spirituality. I could grasp that direction along with Carl Jung’s concept of anima, yet did not see that White Eagle Woman was carefully preparing me for a major leap in consciousness.

On a daily basis I followed White Eagle Woman’s instructions. I would come to a stop, look deeply and dialogue with the feminine seeds of knowledge in my consciousness. I listened deeply in the silence to the communications from feminine wisdom within me to address issues and questions. This became my fieldwork of life, observation and understanding the field of consciousness through the eyes of the internal feminine. Silence and skilful deep looking were certainly important, yet I knew that dialogue with the internal feminine was the key. I made diary entries with my questions and dilemmas, doubts and misgivings then waited quietly for a reply from within. I wrote with respect, love and gratitude and anticipated counsel to arise from inside. It was frequently not what I expected, hence my faith in its integrity.

White Eagle Woman also ensured that I trained with other shamans in journeying, so I could eventually create a form that would be acceptable for non-Natives. White Eagle Woman had taught me how to create a mental medicine wheel earlier. 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 stillpoint, a safety zone and conduit for different time/space conjunctions and the meeting place for my later dialogues with Trailing Sky.

Susan Tatoosh

In 1990, I took a sabbatical leave from my job at Carleton University in Ottawa. In addition to teaching a course at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, I was conducting energy and healing workshops in the city. This led to my offering a retreat in the high plateau area of southern Colorado, near Crestone. Quite a few people had signed up for this but all fell away except one: Susan Tatoosh, elder of the Shuswap First Nation. She was very quiet spoken with a gentle smile that lit up her features. She carried her slim frame with great elegance. The power within her was largely concealed, as I later found out when I became the butt of her exasperation. She knew that her ancestors were instructing her to guide me to realizations I had long ago buried. The retreat turned into a major learning experience for me, as Susan led me to deeper revelations not the other way around as I had expected. We spent time in meditation and ceremony. The arid desert scrub of the high plateau, cut through by small streams, was our backyard. Wherever we walked there was always a gathering of eagles. I did not notice this until Susan pointed out our recurring company. One morning after breakfast she called to me

“Ian, there is someone here to speak with you.”

I went to the door. There was no-one there, or on the pathway.

“Who?” “Where?” She pointed to a large golden eagle on the scrubland close to the house.

“He is there waiting for you.”

I slowly walked over, approached the eagle and squatted down.

“Do you hear anything?” The elder was right behind me.

“No.”

“Stop thinking. Empty your mind. Do you still not hear?”

“No.”

“He called you by a name you should remember. Did you hear?

“No.”

There was a long pause from the elder. She continued: “You’re so useless Ian. From the way you are squatting down your name should be Shits with Eagles.” In exasperation she slapped me on the back of the head and stormed back to the house and watched me from the doorway. I slowly rose to my feet and waited for the eagle to fly. He stayed there right in front of me. Then I felt, or heard him communicate, that I should go to the elder. I did. She was still steamed with me.

“Don’t you realize yet Ian? You were here before and could speak with eagles and other creatures? That’s what the eagle told me and you got nothing.  I will name you rightly as Shits with Eagles. You are so stuck in your own shit in your mind”

I offered to Susan that I had heard the eagle speak as I stood up – to return to the elder. She put her hands on her hips, still fuming:

“Progress at last. Maybe he will come to you in dreamtime and you had better tell me. For now, get out there and listen without any thought in that shit laden mind of yours. Breathe slowly as I have taught you. Stand apart from all notions. Wait. Listen.”

Still I heard nothing, sensed nothing – I just looked at this magnificent creature.

“Speaks with Eagles, we have been waiting for you.”

Where did that voice come from? Was this some kind of trick? I turned round to see Susan smiling. Was she a ventriloquist playing with me? She gestured that I turn my gaze and attention to the eagle. He was preening his feathers, still there within ten feet of me. I took a small step forward and kneeled down so our eyes were on the same level. Not that eagles smile, but it felt as though this one was amused by my discomfort as I knelt on stones and a small cactus. I found it strange that I had sensed the name “Speaks with Eagles.” That was a name bestowed upon me by an Algonquin elder ten years ago in 1980 during a sweat lodge ceremony to reconnect humanity to the Earth Mother. Susan Tatoosh knew about this ceremony and the naming. It was the source of her scornful sarcasm.

The eagle and I stayed like that immobile for an endless moment.

“We protect and guide your direction.”

The voice in my head was deep and resonant. I felt myself going into a sort of trance and wondered if I was hallucinating. What had Susan put in my food at breakfast? Really stupid things I thought of. The great eagle was patient and waited for my thoughts to fade away.

“We will come to you in ways you cannot know. We are at the pinnacle of the medicine wheel that becomes sanctuary for you.”

What medicine wheel? Aaaaah, the one that White Eagle Woman instructed me to create in my mind of course, I get it. Then quickly I came back to stillness, ignoring the ache in my leg muscles and the cactus needle in my left knee. For long moments I gave myself up to this beautiful eagle, not understanding too much at all. Then he gathered himself and launched into flight. I watched him as he flew with huge wing beats over the scrubland towards the southern hills of the Rockies surrounding Crestone. Even when he was out of sight, I just stayed there. Then there were Susan’s hands gently on my shoulders.

“You can stand up now.”

My left knee was bleeding. She led me to the house and applied ice to the knee, which had become quite swollen. She had heard everything and knew I was now open to being tutored by her wisdom. Susan Tatoosh, elder of the Shuswap nation, educated me about Eagle Medicine, as her ancestors had instructed.

            Grandfather William Commanda

Grandfather William Commanda, spiritual elder of the Algonquin nation, taught me about the legends of the Seven Fires Prophecy. He was revered throughout Quebec and Ontario, and created The Circle of All Nations organisation some forty years ago. It was inclusive, as the name implies, and a very unpopular step with many aboriginal groups who had suffered greatly from oppression by the wider society. His vision, however, was clear, to create a global centre for all peoples at the sacred Chaudiere Falls in the city of Ottawa, based on models of healing and reconciliation long established in aboriginal culture. The plans and architecture were carefully drawn together and simply await implementation.

Grandfather had a welcoming spirit and a twinkle of humour in his kind eyes. He was open to everyone who wished to spend time with him and share his wisdom. He taught me what he and other Native American spiritual leaders believe. That present day humanity has entered the Seventh Fire.  A time for hard choices, to either remain on the same destructive course or incubate a major change in consciousness so the Eighth Fire can be ignited. This is an internal Fire for basic human goodness to prevail. The Seven Fires Prophecy is meant for all peoples, to encourage a new generation to fearlessly come together and create a society based on earth wisdom and harmony. I was told by Grandfather that it invokes an end to bloodshed and suffering, the beginning of forgiving and reconciliation. He was the holder of the Seven Fires Prophecy Wampum Belt until he died in 2011. The belt was created in 1400 CE and encodes the potential evolution from the Seventh Fire to the Eighth Fire. I discovered from him that the prophecy was both a warning and an opportunity for reconciliation and change.

Grandfather was a formidable figure and influenced me greatly in the writing of Failsafe: Saving The Earth From Ourselves. He provided a generous testimonial. I drew upon the wisdom of the elders to show that human beings are programmed literally with a Failsafe, which will ultimately kick in, unleashed by our very will to survive. The Failsafe I was describing referred to the necessary incorporation of the Eighth Fire into everyday life. He was also a trickster with a wicked sense of humour. Grandfather warned me, with a hint of mischief, that I would receive a visit from the Thunder Beings that would scare the hell out of me and totally confuse everyone else.

Pine Gate Mindfulness Community in Ottawa, where I am the resident Zen teacher, had for some years participated in an annual sweat lodge ceremony. Just before 2004’s winter set in, we entered into an extraordinary inipi experience. On a rain swept day, nine members of the Pine Gate community travelled to a remote location in the Gatineau Hills to meet the lodge keeper, Roy Barnes. Grandfather had first introduced me to him at the sweat lodge I was invited to participate in to reconnect humanity with the Earth Mother. Roy was the fire-keeper for that ceremony on Victoria Island next to the sacred Chaudiere Falls, the location for Grandfather’s vision to establish a centre for the Circle of All Nations.

Roy was trained in the Lakota Sioux tradition and was also a Sun Dance leader. We were joined by four Dene Chiefs from the Northwest Territories as well as by five members of Roy’s First Nations community. I felt these two sets of nine as one body of eighteen. Despite the relentless rain, the fire heated the grandfather rocks beautifully. The ceremony began with blessings and purification. In the first round I was asked to speak about my work for peace and reconciliation and to extend a welcome to the Dene chiefs from the far north of Canada. One of the chiefs replied and honoured me for setting in motion the reconciliation between traditions and cultures. There was an auspicious energy present from the get-go that soon turned into a startling reality. In the third round, as the men offered prayers for the Earth, thunderclaps exploded overhead and a lightning bolt struck the sweat lodge, travelling underground into the fire pit. No one was hurt or injured, but we all felt the ground shake underneath us, like a mini earthquake.

After the completion of the fourth round, we emerged from the sweat lodge quite shaken yet knew something awesome had taken place. The fire keeper tending to the rocks and wood for the fire recounted how the entire sky turned a bright yellow when the lightning bolt struck the sweat lodge. In the weeks and months that followed, Roy and the Dene chiefs consulted with elders and medicine people about the events of this inipi ceremony. They were told that this was a Thunder Beings lodge, a mark of respect for whoever had been honoured inside the inipi. Most elders had only heard of this in legend and offered honour to whoever received this blessing from the Thunder Beings. When this was told to me, I placed the honour on the Dene Chiefs and the lodge keeper. They stated firmly that this was for me also. We had all been marked by this auspicious visit from the Thunder Beings. Roy later related to me that the medicine people and Sun Dancers across the country honoured the work I do by keeping me in their prayers so that I would be protected. I was humbled by this unexpected source of support.            

 

 

Chronicles of Awakening

Prologue for New Planet, New World                                                         

My latest book, New Planet, New World, published by Manor House Publishing in Canada is now available. This work is the bookend of a trilogy and the publisher asked me to write a Prologue. A great suggestion as that provides continuity as well as shining light on three books rather than one. I offer it at $25 with an additional bonus for readers. If you buy a copy of New Planet, New World from me directly then I will give you the two prior books for free. Order through my website for this bonus http://ianprattis.com/NewPlanet.html

PROLOGUE: Chronicles of Awakening

Book One: Redemption

Book Two: Trailing Sky Six Feathers

Book Three: New Planet, New World

 

New Planet, New World is the final book of a trilogy. The first book Redemption was a lost manuscript, first written in 1975. I rediscovered this heartfelt book in 2011. The narrative was vivified with hindsight from my writer’s eye forty years later. The story is an allegory for life difficulties I experienced at that time. I was a real mess, yet despite my desperate state of mind this novel about Awakening emerged.

Redemption is set in The Hebrides, islands off the northwest coast of Scotland, with startling cycles of maturing and downfall of the epic character, Callum Mor. He was a gifted child, master mariner and derelict drunk, who eventually gains wisdom from a hard life’s journey. He enters the dark zone of alcoholism and withdraws from society. With only his animals keeping him this side of sanity, he survives in a bleak solitude. Laced with grim humor, the novel has nature’s harsh and beautiful rhapsody as the background for tragic human failings; violence, power, murder, rape and madness. The failings are ultimately topped by the triumph of the human spirit. A family with a young girl seeks refuge from a storm at his house and slowly Callum Mor steps away from self-destruction to an astonishing awareness that triumphs over his tragedies. He saves the girl’s life in a blizzard and the glimmer of awakening dawns in him to set the stage for the final drama that illustrates the resilience of the human spirit.

Redemption is a deeply moving tale of desolation, love, loss, transformation and hope. It reads like an extended prose poem reflecting the primal forces of nature and of human nature. Its starkly gorgeous and remote island setting creates and reinforces the central themes of struggle, family, community and wonder at the beauty of the world. The rich cast of characters offers numerous gripping interludes that brim with interpersonal drama. The story centers on and is always connected to Callum Mor, but he is surrounded and influenced by a fantastic cast of family and fellow islanders. They provide a deep well of material as their conflicts and intrigues move the plot forward and offer a vast array of powerfully emotional moments. The story arcs of other characters in the novel offer intriguing counterpoints to one another and to Callum Mor. Their hopes, desires and difficulties intermingle in a tumultuous tapestry of human existence.

The narrative tone is generally quiet and introspective, but it is frequently punctuated by storms both literal and metaphorical. Loaded with the symbolism often found in parables, Redemption alludes to more than what is openly stated. Every scene provides a striking visual clarity that mystically slips into the realm of timeless storytelling. All of this provokes the tapestry for deeper, more subtle messages of compassion and faith to carefully unfold. From the rhapsody of an idyllic childhood through traumatic tragedies to the derelict zone of alcoholism and then a state of awakening, I depict the stations of a personal Calvary that ultimately leads to Redemption.

            Dr. Tom Hagen, his wife Sian and daughter Catriona comprise the family taking refuge at Callum Mor’s house. They are writ large in the final book. I place them in New Planet, New World in the near future of 2080. Dr. Hagen becomes the chef-de-mission of the International Space Agency mission to settle on a planet in a nearby galaxy. Tom, Sian and Catriona move from a minor key in Book One to a massive symphony in Book Three, as their characters fill New Planet, New World to the brim.

Book Two of the trilogy, Trailing Sky Six Feathers, is a Hero’s Journey as if Indiana Jones meets the Buddha with a dash of Celestine Prophecy. Shamanic healing of childhood sexual abuse, guru training and near death experience in an Indian ashram has this author stumbling through the first part of life, then standing strong in his own sovereignty in the latter part. Past life memories collide head on with the present, all thanks to the persistence of Trailing Sky, the Muse who refused to give up on me. Karma is reversed, the internal battles are over as the author begins 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.

With a voice steeped in authentic experience, I navigate past and present lives over four centuries; from brutal raids on Indian settlements in 18th century Arizona, insane sea voyages off the Scottish Hebrides in the 20th century, to a decisive life moment of surrender to the Muse in the 21st century. These screenplay-worthy epic tales weave seamlessly to create inspiration for a wide range of fellow spiritual seekers. The genre is legend mixed with autobiography. Trailing Sky initiates a dream vision in 2008 that caps my slow process of remembering a clear mosaic of experiences stretching back in time over four centuries. Over a period of thirty years (1980 – 2010) four extraordinary mentors enhance this process of remembering for me, 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.

When I talk to folk about Book Two, the first question is usually, “Why did you write this book?” I reply, “Global Citizens are staring into the abyss yet instead of being eaten up by it all I say to you ‘Awaken Spiritually.’ That changes everything. We have made our world an unpredictable beast because we fail to work with it intelligently. Rumi’s wise words are cogent, ‘Sit down and be quiet. You are drunk and standing on the edge of the roof.’ We have to take back control of ourselves and this is a spiritual matter. Turning on the switch of awakening seems to be a good idea right now. We just need to touch the sacred in ordinary experiences of life to find the courage, skill and determination to transform. I wrote Trailing Sky Six Feathers to shed light on issues that will affect our world for generations to come. The example of my own challenging journey and personal transformation illuminates one path to inspire others to choose their way to expand consciousness and chart the course for a future beyond the abyss. The human race does not need to be stuck with maladaptive options and patterns. We can and must transform. The key to change this deep freeze is Awakening, a spiritual relationship with self and Mother Earth.”

Our industrial growth civilization is a system devouring itself, dislocating the organic structures of Mother Earth to the point that all species, not just our own, are at risk. It has taken us to a dangerous precipice. From there we stare into the abyss of climate change, ecosystem and financial collapse, ISIL, resource wars, cyberbullying, terrorism and anarchy.

The two main characters that open the book in 18th century Arizona are Trailing Sky Six Feathers and Eagle Speaker. When the reader encounters Trailing Sky Six Feathers, my Muse from the past, they encounter a powerful, relentless woman who transforms my life in reality in the 21st century, not in historical fiction. She has been described as one of the most powerful woman in modern Canadian literature. Eagle Speaker is her husband and also my transformation vehicle. He dies cradled in her arms in a medicine wheel in the year 1777. As he takes his last breath Trailing Sky whispers to him, “I will find you. I will find you.” She assures her daughter, Rising Moon, that she too will find him. Rising Moon has a minor role in Book Two, yet by transferring her to the new planet in the final book, New Planet, New World, I bring the 18th century to collide with the 21st century. Time, culture, space and consciousness are fused across centuries to create the final book of the trilogy.

New Planet, New World provides a counterpoint to the demise of modern civilization. I chart a Beginning Anew for humanity, a communal Hero’s Journey to reconstruct society based on ecology, caring and sharing, as power elites ignore their complicity in the destruction of life on Planet Earth. This adventure is not without risk or cost. The clash of centuries opens Chapter One with a lyrical and dangerous meeting on a distant planet later this century. The protagonists are from different centuries and cultures. From the 18th century Rising Moon is hurled by shamanic means to Planet Horizon in a nearby galaxy. From the 21st century Catriona gets there from a failing spaceship in an escape craft. Catriona is taken prisoner but fights back screaming, “I am not your enemy.” Instead of killing one another the two young women choose to be blood sisters and embrace survival, accepting nature as their Matriarch. This fragile thread is challenged by the brutal abduction and rape of a main character, Sian the Celtic seer. Her inner strength, of being more than a violated body, inspires the community of pioneers who escape safely from the damaged spaceship. They create a communal structure of living and carve out a home and presence on the new planet.

Four Hopi Sacred Keepers offer their lives in a ceremony to enable renewal on a distant planet that none of them will experience. Mysticism combines with hi-tech to enable a Transfer Particle to seed the new planet and establish settlements. The expansion of communities is interrupted by a jihadist attempt to take over. A terrorist cell on Earth hijacks a spaceship and imperils the lives of the pioneers, who respond with tactical violence to kill them. The stark violence of survival prepares a backcloth for three distinct love stories to emerge. Ethical settlements grow as a mirror for Tolstoy’s vision of “people of the twenty fifth century” – ahead of their time. The dark episodes and lyrical passages move the story along with action, fear, resolution, death, execution, rape, bravery and exile in a futuristic opportunity for humanity.

This action packed book of intertwining plotlines arc into the epiphany of the final chapter (Thirteen), which muses about human survival anywhere. This end game is a philosophy for the future. The inclusiveness of science combines with Tolstoy’s vision, Pope Francis’ Climate Change Encyclical and not repeating the mistakes of the carbon cabal. The underlying message is from Tolstoy, the ‘Conscience of Humanity.’ He described humanity’s bottom line as the cultivation of love, the mainspring for authentic and responsible living. I do not present this as idealism, rather as down to earth wisdom. That is why I wrote this futuristic novel that takes place in the near future. It is the final book of “Chronicles of Awakening.”

The reader now begins to anticipate and harken to the rip tides of this futuristic novel.

 

Review of New Planet, New World

Review of New Planet, New World

  • Anita Rizvi, Therapist:

“New Planet, New World” is a powerful novel which explores an alternative to the destructive path civilisation is presently on. The intricacy of many themes keeps the reader engaged with brilliant writing that is exciting, tender, engaging and thoughtful. The underlying message is the fostering of love as the basic philosophy for the future. Most arresting is the fiery rant by Dr. Tom Hagen at the UN in 2080 addressing the stubborn refusal of governments and corporations immersed in the oil/carbon complex to take heed. The relationship between Catriona and Rising Moon is particularly moving.  We observe two young women from different worlds coming together to create a haven for young people, placing their safety above ego fostering. Through these characters, we consider how any two nations can apply similar principles while civilisation still has the chance. The battle with jihadists is riveting and difficult to bear, but even here compassion prevails.

This futuristic novel combines science with Pope Francis’ Encyclical and strong warnings regarding the disregard by carbon cabal leaders. Tolstoy’s assertion of love as the basis for proper living pulsates as an undercurrent throughout each chapter. Dr. Prattis succeeds in offering us a gift of hope in troubled times via the presentation of a new way of living based on ecology, respect and compassion. “New Planet, New World” not only is one of the most important books of 2016; it is a wake-up call for all of humanity. Ian Prattis’ writing moves me… a visionary sent from God to our troubled world.

To Order go to http://ianprattis.com/NewPlanet.html

Pine Gate Wide Open

PINE GATE MINDFULNESS COMMUNITY                                                                       

 Pine Gate is a Zen Buddhist community practicing Engaged Buddhism inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama and Sulak Sivaraksa. It has created an engaged expression for peace, social justice and planetary care as the community is the nucleus of Friends for Peace. The coalition, with Pine Gate at the core, has since created annual events to celebrate peace, social justice and planetary care.

The resident teacher is Dharmacharya Ian Prattis – True Body of Wisdom.  Ian is a poet, scholar, peace and environmental activist. As a professor at Carleton University he taught courses on Ecology, Symbols, Globalization and Consciousness – reflected in his 2008 award winning book: Failsafe: Saving the Earth from Ourselves. He encourages people to find their true nature so that humanity and the world may be renewed.  He has trained with masters in Buddhist, Vedic and Shamanic traditions.

 Pine Gate, located in the west end of Ottawa, had very modest beginnings. Inaugurated in 1997 following Ian’s return from teaching meditation in India, early gatherings featured Ian, Carolyn, and their pets – Nikki the dog and Lady the cat. Since then it has blossomed into a vibrant community. In the summer of 2001 major renovations took place to the lower level of their home.  A new meditation hall emerged from the dust and knocked down walls – the Pine Gate Meditation Hall. Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh provided a gift of calligraphy naming the Pine Gate Meditation Hall. This now hangs on the wall for all to see. The meditation hall has become a source of sanctuary for friends from many traditions. There are three seasons at Pine Gate – the Fall Study Session from September to December, the Winter Study Session from January to May, and the Lazy Days of Summer program from July to August. June is recess and quiet time.

The bottom line at Pine Gate is the practice of Silent Meditation, Zen style, every Thursday evening from 7pm – 8pm with tea afterwards. The First Saturday of each month provides a Day of Mindfulness. The gathering on Saturday September 3 ushers in the 2016 Fall Program. It is an opportunity for socialization, dharma and pot luck vegetarian supper, 5pm – 8pm. Dharma talks, discussion, mindfulness trainings recitations, sutra study, deep relaxation, Q & A, ceremonies and other practices will follow on further Days of Mindfulness. On occasions the supper will be a formal meal. Hikes, Sweat Lodges, Pilgrimages, and Meditation Retreats are also organized. The voice of the sangha can be heard through its quarterly Buddhist Journal – Pine Gate – which appears three times a year. Quirky!

Our engagement with society and the environment rests on our quality of being. When that quality is rooted in stillness and silence there is a different ground for subsequent actions and so events take a different course. We simply go home to our true nature. We are very active in this way and bring harmony to those we interact with. The most significant interaction is with our true nature. To connect to its boundless quality in daily life, and then to connect to others and the world in the same way is surely the ticket to ride!

The Buddha brilliantly created the initial form of sangha but I do think he would not have wanted it to stay the same as when first established 2,600 years ago! The change of form in sangha practice at Pine Gate emphasizes the power of deep silence. From my yogi training in India I believe that that once one can be truly silent all aspects of mindfulness fall into place. You do not have to fight your difficulties. Silence allows it to leave you. Alone with silence and all that is generated by the imperturbable silence of the Buddha and masters like Ramana Maharsi, the way is paved for bodhisattvas to emerge. This evolving ancient form, resting on deep silence, brings to us the transmissions that the Buddha and Ramana Maharsi made available.

DIRECTIONS: In Ottawa, take Queensway to Woodroffe South exit; go to Baseline Rd; RT on Baseline; RT on Highgate (2nd lights) RT on Westbury; LT on Rideout and follow the Crescent round to 1252, which is always lit up with Christmas lights in the winter and full of flowers in the summer. Attendance is by donation according to means.  Ball Park: $5 – $10.

Contacts: iprattis@bell.net ; carolyn.hill@bell.net Tel: 613 726 0881   

 

Ottawa Independent Writers 30th Anthology

I have two pieces in the 30th Anthology of OIW. My poem “Vietnam War Memorial” and short story “Dawson’s Desert Legacy.” The anthology will be published in October 2016. I invite you to meet Dawson.

Dawson’s Desert Legacy                                                                                       

Dawson was a wisdom holder of many traditions – Ojibwa, Hopi, Lakota and the Native American Church. He did have a second name, but preferred Dawson. He was a legendary figure in Central Arizona and left a lasting impression on everyone he met. I have encountered many people at conferences and talks all over North America and when it emerges that I have spent a considerable amount of time in Central Arizona desert country, I am always asked if I know a man named Dawson. He had met all kinds of people in his capacity as a guide and teacher. Yet his attention and presence never wavered in its intensity as he welcomed all into his orbit of wisdom and patience. I first met him in 1987 on a day long ethno-botany field trip he offered in the Sonora desert region of Central Arizona. I was the only person to turn up, yet this did not deter him. He generously extended his knowledge of plants and hidden sources of water in the scrubland of the Sonora desert. His field trip skirted ancient medicine wheels created centuries ago. He talked about plant cycles within the teachings of the medicine wheel both for ceremony and healing. Part of the mentorship in future years was his instruction of how to build a medicine wheel.

Dawson was a slender yet muscular man in his sixties, though he seemed to be much older. His manner was slow and deliberate, gentle but firm though his light blue eyes carried a steely glint. He loved movies and would always sit in the cinema until the end of the credits, the last person to leave. Eyes closed, he made a point of downloading the full feeling of the movie. It was the same with people, animals and the desert. He brought a sense of gentle intensity and intimacy to every relationship. The initial connection from that first field trip and movie experience warmed into a friendship. One evening in Sedona, two years after our initial meeting, I received a call from him. He asked if I would pick him up two hours before dawn the next morning.

“Wear hiking boots,” he said.

I drove in the early morning dark to Cornville and found him waiting outside his house. I followed his directions to take various forestry roads leading to a reserve on the northern fringe of the Sonora desert. After parking we hiked for approximately thirty minutes into the desert through a scrubland trail. It was still dark when he gestured that we should stop. We shared a flask of coffee and the intense silence of the desert, interrupted only by the scurry of small wildlife. As daylight slowly emerged I could barely see the clouds across a setting moon, yet Dawson gestured for me to look in the direction of three large cacti directly in front of us. The sun rose and I could vaguely make out the flowers opening. Then Dawson pointed them out. They were absolutely stunning in their unreal beauty, ranging from yellow to dark violet. We sat there for over an hour, appreciating their beauty, as the morning sun rose.

“You had to see this before you travelled home to Canada,” were his only spoken words. The morning heat was suddenly broken by a sudden hail storm. We put our packs over our heads and ran quickly to the shelter of the nearest rocky outcrop. The storm lasted only ten minutes although the stones were not small, making quite an impact on any unprotected area of the body. Dawson looked at me strangely.

“That sure is some kind of acknowledgement from the past, and it ain’t for me. What have you been up to Mister Ian?”  Dawson asked.

I just shrugged, as I had no intimations of cause. We walked in silence to where I had parked the car. The hailstones were not to be found beyond a hundred yard perimeter of where we had been sitting.

“Beats the hell out of me, though I reckon you will have some building to do back in Canada,” said Dawson cryptically, as he peered at me out of the corner of his eye. These were the last words I heard him speak. As was his custom we drove in silence. He got out of the car by his property, waved once and was gone.

On a later journey in 1992 to that region of Arizona, when enquiring about him, I discovered to my dismay that he had been killed in a car accident outside Phoenix. I was deeply saddened by this loss, thinking about all that he had so patiently taught me. I drove to where I had last walked with him, to pay my respects to this extraordinary spiritual  teacher, remembering the way almost without thinking. It was not the time for the cacti to flower but I treasured once again the gift he had shown me. I wondered who he had passed on his vast knowledge to, then realized suddenly that he had passed on a great deal to me about medicine wheel lore and construction. Dawson was a spiritual guide and had taken me through many shamanic journeys. The hailstone storm was no longer a mystery to me, rather an early prompt. What I had received from him was put into place in the hermitage where I lived, in the Gatineau Forest in Quebec.

            Over a period of five months in the spring and summer of 1994 I experienced very intensive shamanic journeys with an Algonquin shaman that I prepared for through fasting, meditation and sexual abstinence. On five separate journeys I met and dialogued with ancient shamans from the East, the South, the West, the North and finally to the ancient shaman of the Center. I figured at first that this was an experience with five facets of the same archetypal material from my deep unconscious – though there were major surprises I had not anticipated. Each shaman created distinctive unconscious energy within me, interconnected to the other four. In each journey I was always met by the same beautiful female figure, who then led me to the ancient shaman.  Dawson had repeatedly told me that the feminine source would eventually emerge as a Muse for me – and there she was.

At my hermitage in the middle of Gatineau Park Forest in Quebec, I had a small circle of large stones in my front yard with beautiful ferns growing at the center. I had an overwhelming compulsion that summer of 1994 to build a medicine wheel with this circle of stones as the interior circle. I had been taught by Dawson the appropriate mind-state and procedure of respect to construct a medicine wheel. Dawson had instructed me intensely in Arizona about the central circle of the medicine wheel. It could only be truly experienced when connection to the sacred mystery was intact. The four cardinal directions, East, West, South and North, were the organizing axis for this ultimate fusion, represented by the ferns over which I took such care. It had sunk into my intellect but now reached my heart.

I constructed the medicine wheel with the assistance of two friends who shared my respect and training. We carried out the appropriate ritual, and worked with reverence on a very hot and humid summer’s day. The silence settled on all three of us spoke of something happening inside and around us while creating this architecture of incredible grace, power and beauty. The stones for the medicine wheel came from my garden and the surrounding forest, the hard granite of the Canadian Shield, part of the very ground where the medicine wheel was being built.

After filling the four quadrants of the medicine wheel with fresh garden soil, we contemplated what had been created. I realized its connection to my five shamanic journeys over the previous year. The cardinal points of the wheel and its center were a reflection of the five ancient shamans I had journeyed to meet and the ferns at the centre were an appropriate symbol for the feminine muse that delivered me. The medicine wheel was a symbolic map of my internal experience. I was re-inventing the wheel from my journeys to meet the five Ancient Shamans, yet also ensured that the beautiful ferns remained intact at the centre of the medicine wheel.

I started to smile at how this medicine lore and knowledge had gradually seeped into my consciousness from Dawson. His overarching influence had prepared me for the journeys to the five shamans. I could feel his intense blue eyes watching me at this moment and perhaps he permitted himself a smile too. He had known that I would eventually understand, and had instructed me five years prior in the precise construction of a mental medicine wheel and quietly informed me at that time about the space at the centre being the locale where I would seek counsel from the internal feminine – the beautiful ferns at the center.

             

Mystic Training

January 26, 2008, was the peak of my training in Remembering, the letting go of resistance to all that Trailing Sky Six Feathers meant to me. She was an 18th century medicine woman from the American southwest and sought my attention in the 21st century. A trusted and gifted astrologer friend, Shera, had repeatedly insisted that this date was mega significant for me and I had noted the day in my diary with a large underlined asterisk. It completed a two hundred and thirty one year cycle stretching back in time from January 26, 2008 to 1777, where I died in a prior life cradled in the arms of Trailing Sky Six Feathers. She vows to find me in a future time, to help complete my purpose. Needless to say there was insurmountable resistance from my intellectual and logical mind to remember that pledge in present time. She initiated a dream vision on January 26, 2008 that culminated my slow process of remembering a clear mosaic of experiences stretching back in time over this rare cycle of two hundred and thirty one years.

I also had a healthy skepticism about astrology, yet learned how brilliant a scientist Shera was, with a mystic’s gift of startling insight. Her accuracy was uncanny, detailed and constantly surprising. Her science was rigorous as she used the ancient texts for me, in addition to standard reference material. What struck Shera very forcibly as she researched my intersecting charts was Pluto peaking in Capricorn in every one of my 2008 astrological charts. She also noted, with some relief, that this signified the end of struggle for me. The internal battles were done, karma reversed, so I could look forward to ease and alignment. This date of January 26, 2008 was the major watershed of my lives.

It so happened that in the week leading up to January 26, 2008 I was at Fish Lake on the west side of Orlando, Florida. My friends and hosts had a beautiful home on the shoreline of this conservation lake at the end of the Butler Lake chain. They invited me to their home each year to offer teachings to the Buddhist community in Orlando. Neither they nor I had any inkling of how significant this particular visit would be. There were few houses on the lake and so many wonderful creatures. All I needed was a pair of binoculars and a mug of coffee on their deck for paradise to unfold. The delight of seeing so many animals, birds, otters, possums and the occasional alligator was almost unspeakable.

With the approach of the 26th looming up in my diary I had decided to prepare by fasting and meditating deeply. There was actually no choice. I came down with stomach flu. Nothing that went into my mouth would stay down. Whatever bug had railroaded me, I actually welcomed it, as the fast was definitely on, accompanied by a gentle entry into prolonged meditation that took me into deep humility and gratitude to be in such a rare cradle of nature. But I was not tuning in at all to this two hundred and thirty one year cycle that my astrology friend Shera had been so emphatic about. No radical insights emerged, just jumbled rubbish dreams. Perhaps a clearing of my garbage was taking place due to Pluto crashing into Capricorn with its usual uprooting panache. The only thing I noticed on the evening before January 26 was that my focus suddenly became enlarged, as though my mind had moved from a small TV screen to a huge HD model. A heightened lucidity that I attributed to being ill and light headed from the fasting. During the night I had a vivid dream vision and remembered every exact detail. It was accompanied by a narrator speaking to me, which I found odd.

In the dream I was standing on the lip of a cave high in a canyon in the Red Rock country of Central Arizona. An eagle flew up to me and alighted on my back. She wrapped her wings around me. The gentleness of the talons on my back and the embracing wings across my chest showed me that it was a female golden eagle. Her head was above mine, looking out from the cave. I could see through her eyes. Then the narrator’s voice said, ‘This is the protection of the great eagle. Trailing Sky Six Feathers gives it to you.’

Then the mountain lion bounded into the cave and I heard a different voice in the dream, Trailing Sky speaking through the eagle.  ‘This is the heart and courage of the mountain lion that I now give to you.’ The deer came in, followed by owl and bear, all medicine gifts from Trailing Sky. The wily coyote trotted in, the gift of strategy and discernment. The narrator spoke again, “This goes on throughout the night as you sleep. The gifts of Trailing Sky Six Feathers are given to you. Remember well, she is the greatest medicine woman the South West has ever known. Remember well, she is the direct expression of the highest universal plane. She had only one wish when you died in her arms two hundred and thirty one years ago and that was to find you. Receive the gifts she could not give to you before you died. They arose in her to fill the void of your passing from her life. She has been waiting a long time. You promised her the last time you were in the cave sanctuary that you would understand and not resist.”

“You now carry Trailing Sky’s medicine bundle. Your illness was sent by her, so you would prepare without resistance. She connects to holy beings in all traditions. Guidance from her is not trivial and cannot ever be taken lightly. Your responsibility is to honor this. Your insights into the reality of Trailing Sky will become clear”

When I awoke next morning, I recalled the dream vision in precise detail. Suddenly I had a searing vision of Trailing Sky Six Feathers holding me in her arms as I died in 1777 at the medicine wheel on the rock bluff above the weeping willow tree. I was harrowed to the bone by her grief. I felt her fierceness and anger at the other-worldly beings for failing to revive me. Then felt her anger release as she concentrated on my passage through time and space. I saw how she sat in the medicine wheel holding my dead body as she chanted our journey. I watched her hair turn grey, then white. Then saw her majestic communication to The People. I remember before death, looking up at her and smiling my love through my eyes to her and can still hear her say, “I will find you my husband. I will find you.”

And she did, two hundred and thirty one years later. I could not at first believe this or fully accept it. Yet the eagle wings around me were her arms, the eagle head above mine her vision and fierceness, the talons digging gently into my back to ensure that I understood. In that instant I totally surrendered to this relentless Muse that never gave up on me. I gave up all resistance, realizing that Trailing Sky had kept her word from 1777, “I will find you.” Even now, as I write this memory down, I cannot stop the tears. I am both here, with the dream vision and there, dying in the medicine wheel, as she vows to find me. All my reservations and doubts become as nothing. She had offered her medicine gifts. I had finally fully “Remembered.” So much from that time was flooding my mind. My life changed forever after that dream vision took me back to Trailing Sky’s prophecy. I recalled to memory her last step across the lip of the cave when she stopped and went into a trance. I remembered stepping closer to support her from falling. She had turned and spoke in a voice scarcely her own. “You will return to this cave in dreamtime, though not in this lifetime. Hear me now, understand the vision and do not resist what it teaches. Hear me and promise me.”

I knew that the medicine gifts received from Trailing Sky during the dream vision required that I nurture the skills within me to use them wisely. I entered deeply into silence, meditation and reflection about the dream vision, keeping this all to myself. From my training in different wisdom traditions, I brought together the power inherent in them into the mental medicine wheel taught to me by my Native American mentors. This was the altar, the preparation to honor this great being Trailing Sky Six Feathers. In the centre of the medicine wheel mandala our daily conversations began. I had to take time and care to place the insights from Trailing Sky in appropriate vessels for understanding and communication to others. My remaining time at Fish Lake, surrounded by nature and solitude, provided the uninterrupted space to allow this to deepen, so I could fully integrate the portent of the dream vision. I was very quiet, living simply in a disciplined and light manner, cultivating the vessels. I also had some unexpected help. A magnificent osprey, fish eagle, had roosted at the top of the dead tree in front of my bedroom window.  He was there every sunrise during this time of fasting and insight. I would go out to the balcony on waking up and he would be right there. Not fishing. Not flying. Just there, staring in my direction. He would stay until noon. On a hunch on the third morning, I walked over to the tall dead tree and found several feathers. On the fourth morning, right after the dream vision, I stepped out on to the balcony and there he was again. He stretched his wings, preened his feathers and let out a high-pitched squawk

“I guess you are there to make sure I got it about the dream vision and Trailing Sky’s prophecy.”

Whether he picked my thoughts out of the sky I will never know, but with a resounding high pitched screech he spread his wings and flew in a huge circle over Fish Lake and then headed west up the chain of lakes. I got dressed and headed over to the tree where he had perched. There were more feathers. I picked them up and added the feathers to my collection. I had not counted them, but when I did there were exactly six feathers. I started to laugh and had to sit down on the bed as tears of joy and understanding ran down my face. I got the message, and chuckled at the osprey who could count. I was in awe of the dream vision, the medicine gifts, and the narrator. The implications for my life were enormous. All my reservations and doubts were as nothing compared to the gifts bestowed upon me by Trailing Sky Six Feathers. I did not take the six feathers home with me. They were a communication, not a keepsake. I enjoyed a quiet paddle through the lake system and buried the six feathers, bound by grass, at the foot of a tree containing a huge osprey nest.

This was my gratitude.

 

Dawson’s Desert Legacy

Dawson was a wisdom holder of many traditions – Ojibwa, Hopi, Lakota and the Native American Church. He did have a second name but preferred Dawson. He was a legendary figure in Central Arizona and left a lasting impression on everyone he met. I have encountered many people at conferences and talks all over North America and when it emerges that I have spent a considerable amount of time in Central Arizona desert country, I am always asked if I know a man named Dawson. He had met all kinds of people in his capacity as a guide and teacher. Yet his attention and presence never wavered in its intensity as he welcomed all into his orbit of wisdom and patience. I first met him in 1987 on a day long ethno-botany field trip he offered in the Sonora desert region of Central Arizona. I was the only person to turn up, yet this did not deter him. He generously extended his knowledge of plants and hidden sources of water in the scrubland of the Sonora desert. His field trip skirted ancient medicine wheels created centuries ago. He talked about plant cycles within the teachings of the medicine wheel for both ceremony and healing.

Dawson was a slender yet muscular man in his sixties, though he seemed to be much older. His manner was slow and deliberate, gentle but firm though his light blue eyes carried a steely glint that spoke legions. He loved movies and would always sit there in the cinema until the end of the credits rolled past and be the last person to leave. He would stay there with his eyes closed, making a point of downloading the full feeling of the movie. That was also how he was with people, animals and the desert. He brought a sense of gentle intensity and intimacy to every relationship. The initial connection from that first field trip and movie experience warmed into a friendship. I did numerous sweat lodge ceremonies on his property near the township of Cornville, though it was the desert that always drew him out.

One evening, two years after our initial meeting, I was basking in the outdoor hot tub of the Quail Ridge Resort in Oak Creek Village, having traveled down from Canada, when I received a call from him. He asked if I would pick him up two hours before dawn the next morning. “Wear hiking boots,” he said. I drove in the early morning dark to Cornville and found him waiting outside his house. I followed his directions to take various forestry roads leading to a reserve on the northern fringe of the Sonora desert. After parking we hiked for approximately thirty minutes into the desert scrubland.

It was still dark when he gestured that we should sit. He had a flask of coffee that he shared. We also shared the intense silence of the desert, interrupted only by the slither and scurry of lizards and small animals. As daylight slowly emerged he gestured for me to look in the direction of three large cacti directly in front of us. The sun rose and I could vaguely make out the flowers on the cacti opening. It was so unusual and surprising that I really did not see them at first. Then Dawson pointed them out. They were absolutely stunning in their unreal beauty, ranging from yellow to dark violet. We sat there for over an hour, as the morning sun rose.

“You had to see this before you travelled home to Canada,” were his only spoken words as we sat close to the splendour of the cacti flowers. But it was not yet over. As the sun climbed higher in the sky, it quickly became very hot. Out of nowhere a sudden hailstone storm was upon us. We put our packs over our heads and ran quickly to the shelter of the nearest rocky outcrop. The hailstone squall lasted only for ten minutes or so. The hail stones were not small, making quite an impact on any unprotected area of the body. Dawson looked at me strangely.

“That sure is some kind of acknowledgement from the past, and it aint for me. What have you been up to Mister Ian?”  Dawson said with a shrewd glance my way. I just shrugged, as I had no intimations of cause. We walked in silence to where I had parked the car. The hailstones were not to be found beyond a hundred yard perimeter of where we had been sitting. “Beats the hell out of me,” said Dawson, as he peered at me out of the corner of his eye. These were the last words I heard him speak. As was his custom we drove in silence. He got out of the car by his property, waved once and was gone. That was the last time I saw him. On a later journey in 1992 to that region of Arizona, when enquiring about him, I discovered to my dismay that he had been killed one year prior in a car accident outside Phoenix. I was deeply saddened by this loss, thinking about all that he had so patiently taught me. I drove to where I had last walked with him, to pay my respects to this extraordinary teacher, remembering the way almost without thinking. It was not the time for the cacti to flower but I treasured once again the gift he had shown me. The hailstone storm was still a mystery to me. I wondered who he had passed on his vast knowledge to. The very small piece I had received from him had been put into place in the hermitage where I lived, in the Gatineau Forest in Quebec, across the river from Ottawa.

            Over a period of five months in the spring and summer of 1994 I experienced very intensive shamanic journeys with an Algonquin shaman that I prepared for through fasting, meditation and sexual abstinence. On five separate journeys I met in turn and dialogued with the ancient shaman from the East, the ancient shaman from the South, and the ancient shaman from the West. Then, I journeyed to the ancient shaman from the North and finally to the ancient shaman of the Center. I figured at first that this was an experience with five facets of the same archetypal material from my deep unconscious – though there were major surprises I had not anticipated. Each shaman carried the force of a distinctive unconscious energy within me, though interconnected to the other four. In each journey I was always met by the same beautiful female figure, who then led me to the ancient shaman.

In previous writings I had stated that primary access to the collective unconscious for males in western civilization was through the female archetype, the anima. The significance of this scholarly assertion was right before me in the experience of being met by a female figure in each of these five journeys. Yet I did not make this connection until much later, when I reviewed my field diaries more than a year after these particular journeys took place. It was with an almost visible shock that I noticed I had missed something so significant. There it was, Carl Jung’s anima staring me in the face from my field logs. That intellectual insight was only a half-way house to understanding what was taking place. This “anima” was much more significant and had been incorporated into my training long before I was prepared, or capable, of recognizing the significance.

At my hermitage in the middle of Gatineau Park Forest in Quebec, I had a small circle of large stones in my front yard with beautiful ferns growing at the center. I had an overwhelming compulsion that summer of 1994 to build a medicine wheel with this circle of stones as the interior circle. I had been taught by Dawson the appropriate mind-state and procedure of respect to construct a medicine wheel. I had also learned the importance of the center of the wheel and I had planned this to be right where the ferns so beautifully displayed themselves. Dawson had instructed me about the central circle of the medicine wheel. It could only be truly experienced when connection to the sacred mystery was intact. The four cardinal directions, East, West, South and North, were the organizing axis for this ultimate fusion. At the time I did not know why I took the utmost care of the ferns in the central circle of stones, though Dawson had explained to me about the fusion of the mystery at the centre. It had sunk into my intellect only. It did not reach my heart until much later.

To construct the medicine wheel in my garden, I enlisted the assistance of two friends who shared my respect and training. We carried out the appropriate ritual, reverence and construction. As we proceeded on a very hot and humid summer’s day, a silence settled on all three of us in a tangible way. Something was happening inside and around us while we were creating this architecture of incredible grace, power and beauty. I had collected the stones for the medicine wheel from my garden and the surrounding forest. They were some of the most ancient rocks on the planet, the hard granite of the Canadian Shield, and were part of the very ground where the medicine wheel was being built.

After wheeling in fresh earth from the rest of my garden to fill in the four quadrants of the medicine wheel, we contemplated what had been created. I realized with a start that it was completely related to my five shamanic journeys over the previous months. The cardinal points of the wheel are the four directions, North, South, West and East, all leading from an outer circle to an inner circle at the Center.  The five ancient shamans I had journeyed to meet. It did not register with me at the time, but the beautiful ferns at the centre were an appropriate symbol for the feminine muse to deliver me to each one of the five ancient shamans. It took me a long time to wake up to that insight.  What I did realize, however, was that I had constructed a symbolic map of my internal experience. I was re-inventing the wheel from my journeys to meet the five Ancient Shamans, yet also ensured that the beautiful ferns remained intact at the centre of the medicine wheel.

I started to smile at how this medicine lore and knowledge had gradually seeped into my consciousness from Dawson. I could feel his intense blue eyes watching me at this moment and perhaps he permitted himself a smile too. He had known that I would eventually understand, and had instructed me five years prior in the precise construction of a mental medicine wheel and quietly informed me at that time about the space at the centre being the locale where I would seek counsel from the internal feminine – the beautiful ferns at the centre no less.

 

             

Clannad’s “I Will Find You”

Clannad’s beautiful ballad “I Will Find You” was the theme song for the box office hit – “Last of the Mohicans” starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe. This 1992 historical epic film was based on James Fenimore Cooper’s classic novel.

“No matter where you go, I will find you

If it takes a long, long time.

No matter where you go, I will find you

If it takes a thousand years.”

This haunting love song is reminiscent of an epic moment in my new book – described below:

Front Cover Trailing Sky Six Feathers

“I am Trailing Sky Six Feathers. I ask you all to be a witness of my last words to my husband, Eagle Speaker, before he died in this medicine wheel on the high bluff above the river.” It was as though every one of The People took a deep breath at the same time, waiting for Trailing Sky’s next words:

“As he smiled to me and took his last breath, I said to Eagle Speaker – I will find you my husband, I will find you.”

The ensuing silence cut through everyone’s tension, fear and grief. The words now voiced by Trailing Sky for The People, was taken by a whisper of wind into every heart. The trees heard her words and told the animals and birds. The clouds heard her words and extended them to the Sky People. Across the forests, grasslands and mountains – her words echoed, growing stronger and more penetrating so that the universe itself paused to listen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lv6VW4tMZbE

Screenwriter’s Recommendation for Trailing Sky Six Feathers

Trailing Sky Six Feathers by Ian Prattis is the tremendous story of Ian’s modern day spiritual awakening and discovery of his past life as Native American Eagle Speaker during the 18th century. Only through the intervention of his spirit wife Trailing Sky is Ian able to defeat his past vices and personal struggles to become the man he is today.

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It’s important to recognize the film adaptation will be “based on true events” and not a documentary or biopic. The novel’s incredible scope of events – from the 18th century Indian struggles to contemporary political movements – is fertile territory for great drama and will be adjusted and adapted to best serve the themes of the novel while creating a gripping film.

With all novel adaptations, it’s important to focus on creating a compelling beginning, middle and end that can be captured in two hours of screen time. The film treatment will condense the novel’s amazing depth of detail, life stories and lessons about politics, anima, Gaia, Buddhism, and much more to create a linear filmic narrative.

In the novel, the first chapters set in the 18th century will now be interspersed throughout the rest of the narrative, mirroring challenges Ian faces, culminating in his death in the 18th century and his discovery of his true self and relationship with Trailing Sky in the modern day.

Additionally, like other real life film adaptations, characters and events will be condensed, combined or expanded to serve the narrative of the story. The Native American sequences will be expanded considerably while Ian’s contemporary life will be streamlined to highlight certain important events.

Trailing Sky Six Feathers by Ian Prattis can be an excellent and exciting film with a unique Native American spiritual angle rarely seen on screen.

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