Tag Archives: Sexual Abuse

Why Am I Writing This Book?

When I talk to folk about Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey With His Muse this is usually the first question I am asked. Here is what I reply:
Global citizens are staring into the abyss–yet instead of being eaten up by it all, I say to them: “Awaken Spiritually,” for that transforms 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 this is 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 and determination to transform.
I am writing 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 a path for others to expand their 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.

The next inevitable question is – Who would be interested in this work? I reply that there are four audiences.
The Main Audience: Spiritual Seekers
I like to consider Trailing Sky Six Feathers the real life version of James Redfield’s best-selling fictional book The Celestine Prophecy. I have nine chapters, loaded with Insights and adventure. Trailing Sky Six Feathers is drawn from my actual lived experience. Reality based information is in high demand in today’s society, which provides the potential for this project to become a fresh, new icon for today’s hungry culture. Hungry, that is, for authentic transformation.

Trailing Sky Six Feathers delivers a vigorous message about personal transformation in order to become different stewards of the earth and society. Extensive shamanic training is highlighted, as it was the instrument to overcome my childhood sexual abuse. The journey of remembering childhood wounds and past lives will draw in people searching for interior solutions. In Trailing Sky Six Feathers I show that we can transform the damage and limitations of the past and step onto a path of enlightenment for all who suffer from road blocks in the mind. People around the world are overwhelmed by distraction, fear, suffering and violence – all of which keeps them frozen in a state of inaction – deeply wounded and unable to make changes within themselves and for the planet. The inner journey that occupies this book demonstrates that we do not have to be caught by our suffering, fear and maladaptive responses to Global Warming and Violence. We can take steady steps with wise mentors to break free of the chains and liberate ourselves.

The book will also attract the attention of people interested in Shamanism, Jung, Religion, New Age, Alternative Medicine, Meditation, Consciousness, Buddhism, India, Native American Culture and Wisdom of the Elders. The Sky People who mentored Trailing Sky in medicine lore will certainly pique the interest of Trekkies, given this extra-terrestrial component of the book. Ever since the Star Trek series captured the public imagination with time/space crossovers – there is an intense interest in how past realms and dimensions impact our present reality. That is the very fabric of Trailing Sky Six Feathers and it will appeal to the large Trekkie population who may be surprised that the adventure can happen without science fiction.

Men and Feminists
In Chapter Six: Rainbow Bridge Calling, I spend time exploring maps of Central Arizona to acquaint myself with the region’s ambience. I saw that Oak Creek ran through the Red Rock country of Sedona like a thread – drawing the canyons together. My exploration began with this Water element. This was one component of the Five Great Elements in Buddhist, Taoist and Native American belief – Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Space. I understood the sequence as the correspondence of all things to each other driven by the feminine vessel of enlightenment. I have always thought of the present millennium as the century of the daughters. Not so much as a gender separate thing, but as attributes of a holistic, nurturing presence of mind. The feminine principle is the creator of all matter including the five elements and ourselves. This is why I began my exploration of the region with Water. Oak Creek was fed by spring water from the sacred canyons and she carried their unique energies in one stream. The foundation of the book is the feminine principle with a strong, powerful female character whose task is that of tutoring male stubbornness to surrender to the Muse.
This book will be sought out by men who acknowledge the feminine principle as a staple foundation of their masculinity. The story of my resistance, then final surrender, to The Muse will strike a chord within most men and provide encouragement for their persistent engagement with the internal feminine. Feminists will applaud and readily endorse such a book. The strong characters in the book are all women and the book revolves around the difficulties for men of engaging with the internal feminine principle. The testosterone ended drive of modern society raises the prospect of our species going over the cliff into the abyss. Trailing Sky Six Feathers moves the pendulum the other way to create a balance.

In Chapter Seven: The Compass Changes, my point was that in every mind there is a Failsafe that would activate when matters grew so bad that moving to a new mindset would be inevitable. I argued that the notion of innate earth wisdom, when combined with tipping points in the mind and counter culture, would be sufficient to change our collective mentality in the direction of better earth stewardship and a new spiritual paradigm. On the flip side, I am very aware of the cascading collapse of the world’s eco-systems. That our overpopulated, technologically based civilization may not adapt to a fast changing future without wrecking the environment. If we wreck the environment we are toast. I knew to look for the means to shift our mind set. I replaced the question: “Can we fix the planet?” with a deeper question: “How do we fix ourselves?” I recognized that the modern era transition from “Reverential” to “Referential” with respect to the earth had to be reversed, pointing out that our technical and economic institutions were outstripping our basic humanity.
Planetary care is woven into this book in both the 18th and 21st centuries. The Wisdom of the Elders about the spiritual connection of humans with the Earth Mother provides the template for renewal in the first three chapters. That template is taken into the 21st century with my activism for planetary care through the Friends for Peace organization I established and write about in later chapters. This consistent address of environmental issues directly appeals to the growing environmental movement that Global Warming and Climate Change has catalyzed in the 21st century.

The Younger Generation
Also in Chapter Seven: The Compass Changes, I write about my last ecology class before retiring from Carleton University in 2007. Students encouraged me to get belligerent about Climate Change and its consequences. I enlisted their brilliance and diligence with a collective focus on eco-communities – from rural communities to urban condos – and promised to get testy. This adventure into the pre-conditions for eco-communities, however, had a much bigger intent. It reflected the particular shift in mindset required to salvage the global ecosystem for human habitation. Wherever we are located on the planet – it is essential to conduct ourselves as being part of a global eco-community. Our mindset has to be focused on the reality of living as one component of Gaia’s ecosystem. An edited collection emerged from the enthusiasm, insights and sheer hard work of these students.
This mentoring exercise with brilliant ecology students produced an excellent volume, which contributed to the 2011 Earth Day Environmental Award I received at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. The highlight for me, however, was not the award. It was that the majority of students in this class chose to work as environmentalists in different sectors of the Canadian economy. They cared as much as I did and that was deeply fulfilling.

When I look at the younger generation emerging into maturity, I see beyond the ipods, electronic gadgetry and attitude to the deep intelligence that yearns for something better. I love their in-your-face attitude, as that is the energy of determination that will drive them to put things into balance on the planet. They are not caught so readily by the identities and trade-offs that my generation is so good at entertaining. They are breaking down the barriers of discrimination, storming the barricades of separation. I have only one thing to ask of them. That they slow down for a moment and hold out their hand. For as long as I have a spark in this mind and breath in this body I say to them: “Wait for me, because I am going with you.”
Young people just need to be presented with an opportunity for a way forward and the bell to step up. This book provides both. I can guarantee that Generation X and Y will respond.

DCF 1.0




Deep breaths rattle in and out of my chest.  My legs are shaking and sweat pours down my face and body.  My eyes are stinging but I can’t wipe the sweat away.  If I do I’ll lose my balance and so I kept my arms extended.  I close my eyes and slowly as I stand there, suspended in time and space, my breathing calms.  My legs and arms stop trembling and the sweat is no longer coursing down my body.  I open my eyes. Several shafts of light penetrate the darkness and I realize I am standing on one strand of a giant spider web stretching across an abyss, from one side of the cavern to the other.  This strand is my sole source of support – a gift from Grandmother Spider. I can feel the fibers of the strand beneath each foot as they cradle and balance my slow progress. Eternity seems to pass and I inch along until finally my left foot comes down on solid rock. Flooded with relief, my heart pounds and I look behind me, but only for a fleeting, dreadful moment, peering into the deep, dark abyss plunging forever below the hard rock platform I now stand on. I can see around me a massive dark cavern that I could so easily have fallen into. The grip of the fibers still pulses through my feet as I stand, trembling on solid rock. I breathe deeply to steady my nerves, then without hesitation start to walk along the rocky incline leading away from the abyss. Ghouls, snakes, creatures and phantoms of all kinds move through the cavern but I pay no mind to them as I walk with determination away from the danger that had entrapped me.

The shock of sunlight.  I’m blinded for a moment until I see a verdant valley stretched out in front of me. A trail leads to a river and without hesitation I follow it and take off my clothes and submerge myself into the crisp, cold waters and all the fear and danger I carried from the abyss washes away.  I warm myself on a rock and then dress. There’s a pair of shoes in a leather satchel and I slip them on.

Walking onwards lightly and beautifully, I follow the the river in the direction of the sun  Mallard ducks preen at the water’s edge with their ducklings, and a kingfisher sits patiently on a branch overhanging a deep, still pool.  Sunlight filters through the trees and the light dances on the rocks and water like a crystal cloak, shimmering and moving with every swirl and eddy.  The river leads me to its source – a beautiful lake cradled by high snow-capped mountains where I rest for a while. At the end of the lake I can see a cow moose with her calf at the water’s edge.  In the distance wolves call to one another, and there are two rabbits beside me. A doe and two fawns walk slowly and tentatively from the forest into the sunlight, unafraid of my presence.  Skylarks hover motionless in the sky then descend to earth with their lilting song.  Being close to all these creatures fills me with a feeling of well-being, but I know I cannot remain at this peaceful spot.

As I stand to leave a huge golden eagle circles above me, my guardian. Tall pines mark the edge of the forest and I follow a path to a large clearing.  A fire flickers beside the flat rock in the centre of the clearing. And there’s a woman tending it.  She is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, tall with long black hair loosely braided on either side of her oval face.  In her crafted buckskin garment she moves as gracefully as a deer. She stops putting wood on the fire and stands tall, watching me. Her dark eyes are riveting and she gravely observes my progress to the center of the clearing where I stand in front of her.

“We have been expecting you, though wondered if you would get through the dangers of the abyss. The Ancient Shaman of the West is waiting to talk to you. Take the path ahead of you and follow it to the mountain.”

I remain silent, making no reply – smiling shyly in thanks for her directions.

The path leads towards the mountains and I feel as if I have been transported to a valley deep in the Rocky Mountains.  There’s a small cedar building ahead. The heavy wooden front door is wide open and as I enter, a deep melodious voice greets me.

“Welcome Ian, it is about time that we met.”

Oil lamps cast a glow over simple wooden furnishings with animal skins thrown over them. Spears and traps adorn the walls. There’s a central fire and an altar on the east side. I smell the aroma of burning sage and feel the intense sacred nature of this abode. Standing in front of me is a magnificent old man dressed in a splendid embroidered buckskin tunic and trousers. His hair is white, as is his trimmed moustache and beard. His dark skin makes his smile all the more dazzling. He’s easily six feet tall with an athletic body underneath the bearskin robe thrown over one shoulder. All of this vitality seems at odds with his obviously advancing years, his weathered skin evidence of his life’s journey. His dark eyes penetrate every aspect of my being as he regards me for a long moment.

“Come sit with me. We will share some tea.”

I make myself comfortable on a bench by the fireplace, feeling at rest and at peace with this man and we sip tea together for quite a while in silence,

“There is someone who wishes to meet with you. She passed on to the other side many years ago. Yet she still carries a great burden of sorrow. And that sorrow has to do with you. Are you prepared to meet your favorite Aunt?”

“You mean my Aunt Ruby is here to speak with me?”

He nods and there is my Aunt Ruby sitting opposite me on another bench. She’s just as I remember her, wearing a fashionable pant suit, her greying hair pulled back in a bun to display the beauty of her cheekbones and elegant face.  But she looks troubled, sad. Ruby had been my favourite aunt. When I was seriously ill as a young teen, she took care of me and nursed me back to health. I suffered from a general malaise that my family’s doctor put down as rheumatic fever – but it was not that at all. Had I been born into a society steeped in shamanism, the elders would have seen that this was a shamanic illness, announcing that I was ready for training. But I was not born into such an alert society, and so my shamanic training was postponed until my middle years. In the meantime my Aunt Ruby healed me with her boundless source of love and incredible intuition.

It hurts, seeing my aunt so distraught and miserable. Very softly I ask her “Can you tell me why you seem so troubled Aunt Ruby?”

“Oh my Ian, there is no “seem” about it. I knew, as did your other aunties, about the abuse you endured at the hands of our second cousin, when he was on leave from the army after World War II. We all felt that we had failed to protect you and did not do enough to keep him away from you. We took some solace in that you seemed not to remember. So we kept quiet about it, keeping it as a family secret. But I have carried this deep suffering into the grave and beyond. My sisters and your parents too. I am so sorry Ian for not protecting you in time.”

I sit patiently, waiting for her sobbing to subside

“My dearest Aunt Ruby – please stop your tears. I became aware of the abuse and its effects on me as I got older. In my middle years I had wonderful help from powerful healers and shamans and was able to release the energy of abuse so it no longer harms me as it once did. I even found forgiveness for the man responsible – your second cousin. If I can let go totally of the suffering, then surely you can do the same. And your sisters and my parents can let go of any grief they still carry. None of you need to suffer on the other side.”

Her crying stops, as she collects herself and in a tremulous voice Aunt Ruby asks, “Is this really true Ian? You are not just saying this to placate me? I could not bear that.”

“It is absolutely true. The pain, suffering and violence from the abuse are no longer with me. It is only logical that it is no longer with you. Don’t you think so?  You must share this news with your sisters and my parents on the other side. Can you do that for me?”

She nods, silent for a while, pre-occupied with her thoughts and suffering. Then she looks up at me and smiles her great broad grin. “You were always my favorite nephew Ian – the little philosopher. How well I remember our conversations about insects, God and the universe. When you stayed in my home when you were so ill – that was one of the happiest six months of my life.” Her eyes light up. “And do you remember how I used to chase you and your cousins at our parties and give you big red lipstick kisses on your foreheads and cheeks? You never rubbed them off, not like the others, though you must have been embarrassed at being out run by your auntie!”

Ruby’s sorrow has been lifted and then, in an instant she is gone.

The Ancient Shaman of the West who has observed our exchange looks at me with those penetrating dark eyes, “This is what you came to do Ian. It is now time for you to go back.”

“Come back Ian.” The voice calling to me grows more and more insistent. “Come back.”

And so I travelled back. I was lying down on a bear skin with a pillow under my head.  White Eagle Woman, medicine woman of the Ojibway, sat in her armchair – very carefully observing me on the floor of her home.  It was 1985 and I had already received seven years of training with this all seeing magnificent mentor.

“I will help you stand up as you will be shaky after that journey. And brush you down with an eagle wing. Then you can sit down on the sofa and tell me every part of your journey. First – drink this glass of water.”

With one hand on my shoulder she brushed me from head to toe with the eagle wing in her other hand and I felt the strength of eagle medicine enter my body and mind, knowing I was coming to rest in a stable state. I sat down on the brown sofa and White Eagle Woman listened intently as I spoke, occasionally asking me to repeat and clarify the sequence of events I was describing. She pointed out several vital components of the journey that I had missed. She was very thoughtful once I finished speaking. I respected her silence. Then she looked at me shrewdly, as if through new eyes.

“This journey had more than I ever expected of you. Grandmother Spider rarely shows herself as a helper. Her job is to spin the threads of the Universe, yet she took time out to build that web across the abyss for you. It is only thanks to her that you could walk out of the darkness of the cavern and begin your intended journey. You were totally unaware of how much that gift means and of the other gifts placed on your journey. In time that will all be brought to your attention. But what sticks with me the most right now is that you offered gifts to your Auntie so that her suffering could diminish.”

She paused, tapping her feet on the floor in concentration, and considered very carefully her next words to me: “The Ancient Shaman of the West is very pleased with your compassion and courage. And so am I.”

With that rare acknowledgement, White Eagle Woman stomped off to the kitchen to make tea – leaving me to wonder about what else I had missed and still did not understand. This was the state of unknowing from where I began the process of remembering.

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 four incredible medicine people 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 Medawin lineage, an unbroken tradition of medicine people known 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 to 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.


Transformation in India: Part I

Transformation in India Part I


Excerpt from Chapter Five of forthcoming book – Trailing Sky Six Feathers.


Streaming video of “Cremation Pyres on the Ganges” – text, photos and voice – http://www.ianprattis.com/poemmovies/cremationpyrepoem.htm


We are so happy Ian that you have decided to die with us in India. And even more happy if you live.

Huddled on a bed in an ashram in Mumbai, India I opened my eyes to see a visiting Swami sitting beside me. I felt very calm about letting go of my bodily existence. I knew that the experiences of joy and freedom flooding through me at this time were dissolving my many mistakes and bodily pain. Trailing Sky was there constantly – I even wrote in my India diary and notes that there was a female deity orchestrating all the energies to keep me alive. Not realizing, until reviewing my diaries years later, that Trailing Sky was staring me in the face, challenging me to acknowledge who it was that saved my life in India. She must have been exasperated with how dense and unseeing I was at that time.

I had traveled to India in 1996 to teach and train in Siddha Samadhi Yoga. The Vedic tradition I was studying was ecumenical in character, a wisdom tradition totally relevant to the modern day. The ashram in Mumbai was reserved for saints and holy men. I did not qualify for either category. Lying close to death, the lack of fear provided a sense of freedom and strength. At last I felt truly like me, very peaceful, no longer a maverick standing alone. I did survive and completed my guru training six months later at a remote ashram, going into total silence during the last two weeks. Before I took my leave from the ashram the Swami arranged a parting ceremony – an initiation to receive the mantle of the guru that I was now recognized as.

In the groove

In November and December of 1996 I had become seriously ill in India. As I observed my bodily systems crashing one by one I knew there was a distinct possibility of death. To this day I am still amazed by my calmness and lack of fear. 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.

While in India I also trained in the mastery of “bija” mantra.  Bija means “seed” and the seed mantras are powerful instruments of transformation. The major mantra I trained with, however, was the Gayatri Mantra, the main feature of the Sandhya–Upasana ceremony – a sacred ritual for Brahmanic definitions within Hinduism. It was part of my training in becoming a guru in Siddha Samadhi Yoga. The Gayatri is considered by Indian sages to be the most powerful mantra of purification and transformation, as it expands consciousness in multiple directions. The successive sounds of the Sanskrit syllables move the individual chanting it into elevated states of spiritual experience. As an invocation for enlightenment it has the effect of drawing other individuals into the same state.  This is the theory – as told to me in India.

Two twenty eight day training periods, six months apart, were the high points that the rest of my training built up to. My cultural and religious background was not the same as my two cohorts, yet the experiences we shared were remarkably similar. I could observe my mental states, compare them with reports from my peers, then verify them with the Swami overseeing the training.  Then from my experience, I could verify – or not – the claims made about the Gayatri mantra. The Gayatri ceremony was conducted at sunrise and sunset each day. The mantra was the central component of a long Sanskrit chant that prepared each one of us to experience the full effects of Gayatri. Prior to the training retreats I had months of preparation – with attention to specific meditations, dietary regime and sexual abstinence. I learned how to chant the Gayatri and co-ordinate it with the four components of breath: inhalation, holding the air inside, exhalation, holding the emptiness. There was a mathematical precision in tone, pitch and resonance of the mantra, as it was exactly co-ordinated with the different components of breath and hand movements over the body. It was all quite complex and overwhelming and I frequently wondered if I would ever get it right. I benefited from the persistence and encouragement of my cohorts who were determined that I not be left behind. I also had skilled and patient teachers who made the effort to transmit this oral tradition, thousands of years old, to a westerner not used to this form of education.

Our preparation for each ceremony was through extensive pranayama – breathing exercises – before sunrise and sunset. Attention was always brought to the union of the individual with the Universal. The rituals of the Gayatri ceremony had to be performed with grace, and clumsiness was frowned upon. In the early days I certainly drew a lot of frowns from the Swami and Rishi who oversaw the training. The effects on me were far reaching. During the first training period the twice-daily recitation brought on heavy night-time fevers. I would feel perfectly fine during the day, yet at night it felt as though I was running a high fever, although there was no unusual increase in temperature.  I found that my peers were feeling similar discomfort, though nobody was ill. I asked the Swami about this.  He indicated that we were all feeling the initial effects of the Gayatri Sandhya. Before it could penetrate our being and expand consciousness there was a great deal of “dross” to burn off – hence the fever-like states. I reported back to everyone’s relief.

My consultations with the Swami became quite an amusing ritual, as members of my cohort would not ask questions. Yet they encouraged me to do so and gave me questions of their own. It became a way to check my experience with that of others, and then seek verification from the Swami, who had quite a benevolent attitude towards me. My fellow trainees would wait for the results of my consultations, crowd round and listen to whatever I had to report. We would then discuss it from the perspective of our own experiences. It was amazing at how similar they were.  I felt it wise to always give my experiences last, so as not to provide an influence or “track” for others’ reporting.

The most significant cognitive changes came about when chanting the Gayatri with the different phases of breath and levels of mantra. These combinations produced hyper-lucidity and sharpness. This sharpness was essential for me, because there was so much to co-ordinate at different levels. I felt very alert, as though I was climbing stairs of consciousness. This was similar to the experiences of my shamanic training with White Eagle Woman. I was moving through states of consciousness to different levels of cognition but always felt a sense of being aware of where I was, of what was taking place in the multiple levels of consciousness experienced. New spaces were opening up in my mind, while I was also very aware of being located in the physical realm – an insight confirmed by the Swami without my asking. Not all members of my cohort experienced this aspect of dual consciousness. The Swami was on the lookout for trainees who got “stuck” and had difficulty returning. He also confided that he had fully expected me to be the one he had to look out for the most and was pleased that this was not so. Me too.

The second training period was with a different cohort in a different part of India – Karnataka as opposed to Andra Pradesh.  My new cohort was made up of experienced meditation teachers and exceptional gurus – quite the lineup of wisdom. With this powerful group of beings the sunset ceremony was conducted by running water to deepen the silence, stillness and penetration of the mantra. The chanting of the Gayatri took place with all of us standing up to our waists in the water. When it came to the point of suspending thought and allowing the Gayatri to arise spontaneously, to my total astonishment it did just that.  At the same time I could feel and identify the particles of mud between my toes, see minute electrons in the air and look down on my wisdom buddies from a great height. I felt encompassed by the evening sky and at the same time I encompassed the sunset, the evening sky and everything beyond it. This experience was repeated with varying intensity during every sunset rendition of the Gayatri-Sandhya. I never felt it necessary to communicate this to the Swami or to members of my second cohort. I went into total silence during the last two weeks and do not recall talking to anyone, as everyone very carefully left me in the silence.

In my diaries I recorded my experiences in poetry and art – a totally inadequate exposition for something that cannot be fully expressed in either. I persist with this inadequacy, through words, to convey some semblance of the experience. Before I took my leave from the ashram the Swami asked to speak to me. He described my experiences in complete, precise detail and arranged a parting ceremony – an initiation to receive the grace of a guru through the name assigned to me: Prem Chaitania.  My wisdom buddies were delighted by this. My teachers informed me that the Gayatri would continue to work on my consciousness, whether I was aware of it or not. Any awareness would provide an arrow of insight into further changes.  There were other perceptual and cognitive experiences that I am not at liberty to communicate, and still others that I choose not to relate.  Training with Gayatri had major life changing effects, not the least being that I became a better and more skillful teacher, both to meditation and university students.  As for the rest of my life – that it is still a work in progress!

What I can say from personal experience is that once my wild mind was reined in, clarity and compassion were suddenly there in greater compass. This provided a different basis for how to be with the planet and others in a new way. It was how to move from the Seventh Fire to the Eighth Fire – the Seven Fires Prophecy learned from Grandfather William Commanda. Whatever it takes to tame the wild mind. This partial account of my journey in India is to demonstrate that my activism for peace, planetary care and social justice now came from a different place as a result of the internal work. Steadiness, clarity and compassion are there rather than ego posturing from the lunatic fringe. Though there was a “rush” from the latter, I prefer the still-point, uncoloured by the excess of ego and desire for control and kudos-seeking. Such a still-point permits me to be free in my own sovereignty, no matter what I am doing. It also propels me to serve the planet and humanity in a way of creating bridges and pathways of harmony that make sense – to make the Eighth Fire a reality rather than a prophecy. My work in progress is ongoing, anchored by the presence of Trailing Sky throughout my journeys. I have no doubt about her presence throughout my process of healing and transformation and know she was waiting throughout the shadows of my life.