Tag Archives: Transformation

US BOOK VIEWS: 5 STAR FOR “OUR WORLD IS BURNING.”

US BOOK VIEWS: 5 STAR FOR “OUR WORLD IS BURNING.”

This book exhumes a quiet power with the strength to reshape the reader’s mindset. In a time of stress, uncertainty, rampant consumerism, and divisive politics, one could easily succumb to the modern dog-eat-dog mentality. It’s easy to feel like a small, meaningless pebble in the vast sea of society, but Dr. Ian Prattis—guru, Zen teacher, former anthropology professor, and writer—believes there’s a better way to live based on mindfulness and simplicity. In his essay collection, Our World is Burning: My Views on Mindful Engagement, Dr. Prattis argues that we can improve not just our lives but the world around us by becoming an island of mindfulness within human society. Our World is Burning presents sixteen essays which strive to teach the benefits of mindful engagement for individuals, communities, and the Earth.

These essays are divided into four parts, each based on a different area which mindfulness can positively impact: global climate change, family and community, healing and transformation, and spiritual support. Dr. Prattis shows readers what mindfulness can do for them and the small ways in which readers can rewire their consumerist thoughts and become more present in the here and now.

While conveying many of the same messages as other spiritual works, Our World is Burning stands out for its calm honesty. Dr. Prattis does not pull any punches, whether he’s talking about society, his loved ones, or his own life. He lays out the facts truthfully but without the angry, accusatory tone which often accompanies topics such as global climate change. Readers might feel guilty as a result of this book’s truths, but not because of the author’s tone; instead, they will feel the weight of his words, and readers will know that it is time to take action. Fortunately for those who do not like academic essays, Dr. Prattis does not rely on this method to convey his views. Also, as Dr. Prattis warns in the “Invitation,” these essays do not focus on scientific research or statistics. Rather, Dr. Prattis uses personal anecdotes, references to prophetic movies and books, and even a fictional depiction of measures which may become necessary due to global climate change. This variety allows readers to avoid any dry patches due to the monotone of typical essay writing—that is, if they are truly interested in the subject matter.

That being said, this book is not for everyone. Dr. Prattis makes claims which will rub some readers the wrong way. Namely, his remarks on the destructive nature of consumerism and society’s reluctance to adapt will strike a nerve with more conservative readers. However, those really looking for what’s missing in their lives, those who want to make a difference but don’t think they can, will find a wise guide in Dr. Prattis. He teaches readers that they might just be one person, but it only takes 2% of us meditating to bring change to the entire world. His personal anecdotes and conversations with family members will especially touch such readers, showing them that Dr. Prattis knows these methods work firsthand and is not just a “do as I say, not as I do” instructor.

For those wanting an insightful, inspirational examination of mindfulness in the modern era, look no further. This book will strike your heart and point you down a path of meditation, simplicity, and mindfulness. This new path will be difficult, but the peace and hope which Dr. Prattis promises will be worth the obstacles

Order Book: Amazon, Indigo, Author Autograph – http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html

 

Guidelines to reconstruct our World.

I am preparing a collection of essays – “Our World is Burning” for publication in 2017. Essay Fifteen is pertinent today.

Essay Fifteen: Guidelines to Reconstruct our World

The life support systems of the planet are severely threatened by Climate Change, aided by the accelerating greed, materialism and waste of the current global paradigm. Our ignorance and neglect are destroying the Earth, because we do not know how to behave in an aware manner with respect to ourselves, to others, and to the planet. Unless we radically change there is no possibility of balance, environmentally or socially. There is no remedy without establishing universal environmental ethics. This was my thinking while I was preparing for my Ecology and Culture course on TV at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. I wanted to connect the dots of the many levels of violence and fear we engage with. The environment certainly, but also the everyday use of harmful speech, harmful consumption and all the way up to acts of terrorism. We need to dig out the causes of how violence to the earth and ourselves is nurtured worldwide.

We live in a world framed by fear, hatred, terror, revenge and uncertainty. These derivatives of human experience are no strangers to our consciousness yet we remain ill equipped to reconstruct the world we live in. We desperately need guidelines. The not so hidden agenda remains “What do we do about neglect, indifference, violence and terror?” I show that with ethical guidelines rooted in spiritual practice, we do not generate the energy that enables terror and violence to grow. From our everyday situation to the present climate of fear, hatred and vengeance, I demonstrate that it is all of the same nature. We just have to learn how to behave differently. Radical retraining is evidently in order, as we must change before a brave new world can become a reality.

These issues were examined with great clarity by the awakened mind of the Buddha, 2600 years ago. His teachings are timeless, as relevant to the modern world as when first spoken. The Buddha taught the Five Mindfulness Trainings as a design for living. Thich Nhat Hanh reworked them to be in sync with modern realities. They are non-sectarian and all spiritual traditions have their equivalent. The first training is to protect life, to decrease violence in one-self, family and society. The second training is to practice social justice, generosity and not exploit other beings. The third is responsible sexual behavior to protect couples, families and children. The fourth is the practice of deep listening and loving speech to restore communication and reconcile. The fifth is about mindful consumption, to help us not bring toxins and poisons into our body or mind. Quite a formula to present to my class!

I asked students if anyone would care to read them out to their classmates during my lecture. There were many volunteers. I did wonder if this borrowing from Buddhism would go over well with students and the viewing audience. Much to my surprise students and the public viewers wrote in to tell me that this was a wake-up call, the first time they had been presented with environmental ethics. Let me be clear – the trainings are not there for us to be in judgment of others, to bludgeon people with a misplaced self-righteousness. They are an internal compass so that as individuals we wake up to love and compassion and take heed of the directions the Mindfulness Trainings guide us to. The trainings are not a coercive design for conformity. They simply assist us to be more aware of what is going on, around and within us. They enable us to distinguish that which is good for ourselves, our minds and the world and that which is not. It is not necessary to be perfect in the practice as that is not possible. But it is possible to move in the direction of responsible and ethical living and make a difference to our society and environment. The options are: Do we bring to violence, indifference and terror a renewed application of the same? Or do we step back and consider these teachings?

We created the present situation, yet there is a way to transform our creation. The politicians, corporate moguls and terrorists making the decisions that presently shape our world do not have awakened minds. Their minds are scarred, filled with ignorance, their hearts held hostage to corporate and electoral agendas. They all follow the same script, seeking similar justifications to advocate the use of violence. Trapped in history and hate they offer no means of re-creating our world. The Buddha does. The implications of his Five Mindfulness Trainings apply fully to the dangerous times we live in. Our world needs guidelines like these to live by. The Trainings provide explicit guidelines that resonate fully within other religious traditions.

The flip side to global violence is the growing concern about the absence of love, decency and compassion in daily and public life, in schools, at work, in the healing professions and in the world at large. This preoccupies and worries many citizens and scholars at the present time.  If there was ever a time to learn anew from these teachings, it is now. The awakened mind of the Buddha is there in the Five Mindfulness Trainings and it is not just a property of the Buddha’s consciousness. It is the potential state of our own mind. When we touch base with the Five Mindfulness Trainings the same aspect of mind in ourselves is being reminded to wake up. Neglect, terror and fear are states of mind. Therefore we need tools that reconnect us to a mind state not driven by such factors.

The Five Mindfulness Trainings are presented as an antidote to the contemporary crises and devastation we have created through ignorance and neglect. The deep malaise in society is making us ill, so preventive medicine is necessary, so that we may become whole and regain our health and balance. The ethics of the Five Mindfulness Trainings provide the necessary balance to come home to our true nature, while caring for all we interconnect. Before trying to address social and environmental crises, the building of inner spiritual strength through meditation and mindfulness is crucial.

FIRST MINDFULNESS TRAINING – Reverence For Life

 Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.

            Allow me to break it down. Each training begins with Aware of the suffering caused by …  “Aware” means that I am mindful of suffering. I am aware that when life is destroyed mindlessly, suffering ensues. As I grow more aware, I begin to take refuge in the awakened aspect of my mind. The First Mindfulness Training addresses suffering caused by physical violence. When we become aware of that, we take steps to diminish the source of that suffering. We can choose to be vegetarian. We do not give our approval to violence carried out by the state, but we have to take care, first of all, of the violence that rests in our own minds. Our concerns manifest in what we do, say, and think. Body, Speech and Mind provide three locations for our action. Of these three, Mind is the most difficult one to deal with, as the task is to learn ways of practicing non-violence in our minds.

I am committed to cultivating interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. The notion of “learning ways” indicates that we do not know it all, that we make mistakes and do not do things perfectly. Yet we make a commitment to find ways to do things better, as we take responsibility for all that we interconnect with on the planet. The first training is about compassion, of cultivating the ability to transform suffering. The energy of compassion is born from insight and experience, not from the intellect or external decree. We know that our compassion includes the ecosystem. To protect human life we must protect the life of ecosystems. If the environment is destroyed, humans will be destroyed. It is taken further in the stricture not to support killing, even in our minds. To find the way to transform the wars and killing within our thoughts, we must learn how to be internally peaceful. As peace and environmental activists, if we have not taken care of this and continue to work out of anger or despair, then we will never succeed. The change and healing begins with the individual. From there it can extend to society and the environment.

When we practice mindfulness through walking meditation or conscious breathing, then we practice peace. When we reduce the internal wars compassion is born. With understanding and insight we learn the ways to express it. The practice of mindfulness is the ground from which we touch the suffering in the world and from there we act with clarity and understanding.

SECOND MINDFULNESS TRAINING – True Happiness

 Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others: and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering; that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion; and that running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair. I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy. I am committed to practicing Right Livelihood so that I can help others reduce the suffering of living beings on Earth and mitigate the process of global warming.

In our commitment to cultivate loving kindness, we learn ways not to exploit. We learn to share more and to consume less. A most difficult thing to share is our time. We will often give money to support a worthy cause, yet rarely do we share time. We attribute not having time to causes and conditions that lie outside of ourselves; job, family, housework, political activities and so on. Yet being polluted by time is a condition that lies entirely within our own minds. We forget to practice mindfulness, and rarely can we even enjoy a cup of tea. I remember with some nostalgia having tea with my Scottish grandmother. It was a carefully observed ritual, with the best china and attention to detail. It was a wonderful opportunity to slow down and really be with each other. Contrast this with the hasty cup of coffee first thing in the morning, as we watch the news, feed the children and hit the highway. It is no wonder that by the time we get to work, we are tied up into tight knots. This is a direct effect of pollution by time.

On those occasions when we allow ourselves to be present and truly share our time, there is a memory of joy, because it stands out from all other experiences of life.  I remember several years ago shopping at Starbucks to buy some decaffeinated coffee. An elderly lady was in front of me, being served by the assistant manager. She asked him about the taste and quality of the different kinds of coffee beans. As there were no other customers apart from myself, the assistant manager took the time to explain the difference between French Roast, Kenyan and Columbian coffee beans in terms of growing conditions and taste. He was very knowledgeable and I received quite an education. Finally he asked: “Madam, what would you like?” To which the elderly lady hesitatingly replied, “Do you have any of that Tim Horton’s coffee?” (Tim Horton’s is a competing franchise to Starbuck’s.) Smiling broadly, the young man said that they did not stock it, but as things were not too busy he would drive her to the nearest Tim Horton’s. He shared time, and made my day (and the elderly lady’s) with the joy that emanated from him being totally present. I have never forgotten this small act of loving kindness, and I am sure his customer remembers it with similar feelings of joy.

This training is about generosity. It is about the opposite end of the spectrum from exploitation, oppression, social injustice and stealing. These attributes have many faces and constitute a form of theft that kills us slowly. In the Second Mindfulness Training the emphasis is on loving kindness, expressed through generosity. There are three kinds of gifts of generosity. First of all the gift of material resources, second the gift of helping people to stand on their own feet through the gift of wise teachings, and third the gift of fearlessness. The third gift is very important, as so many people are motivated by the fear of not surviving. Fear corrupts and degrades, yet is a pressing reality in the minds of so many global citizens. To help those in the grip of fear, we bring the gift and benefits of our loving kindness, of our own fearlessness. We can encourage people to feel safe by being fully present with them. This may be something they rarely experience. Fearlessness in our example helps friends in difficulty and pain.

Thich Nhat Hanh poses a direct question about the Second Mindfulness Training:

Is your nation practicing this?  Or in the name of development or growth, is your nation or are your lawmakers violating it, exploiting other nations, trying to make them into a market, monopolizing them, profiting from their manpower and natural resources in order to win the heart of their own country and its people?

The Second Mindfulness Training is a profound practice, as it generates larger and more encompassing groups of people in communities, cities and nations to engage with global realities of systemic breakdown.

THIRD MINDFULNESS TRAINING – True Love

 Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that the body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness, which are the four basic elements of true love, for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.

             This training is about healing the negative consequences of sexual misconduct. In contemporary society love is often misunderstood; attachment is substituted for friendship and the sex industry for relationship. It is no surprise that subsequent actions lack responsibility. Authentic love calls for understanding, responsibility and respect, whereby our sexuality reflects a wider mosaic of joyful communion between body and spirit. The key term in this training is responsibility. Because we are responsible for the well being of so many people, we make the choice to refrain from sexual misconduct. In sexual relationship, as many of us know and have experienced, we can become deeply hurt and devastated. This training protects us, and others, from being wounded. Loneliness, advertising and the sex industry provide a powerful inducement for misconduct, which has destructive consequences for all concerned in the sexual abuse of children. On a daily basis the imagery of the sex industry is presented to our senses through advertising, the media, internet, pornography and films. The producers of this material may claim freedom of expression, but it is really a lack of responsibility. It influences everyone profoundly, particularly young people. This irresponsible imagery pollutes our consciousness and fosters sexual misconduct, destroying self-respect and respect for the other.

We need to learn ways to protect our senses, to guard against the energy of the sex industry as it is insidiously purveyed to us on a daily basis. There is an ethical void around sexual behavior, and young people are left to experiment without clear guidance. They stumble frequently into disaster and suffering, as do their parents. That void can be filled by observance of the Third Mindfulness Training as it protects our senses and provides the means to re-establish the balance that has been lost. Meditation closes the sensory doors to external inputs and opens the doors to the heart, wherein dwells our true nature of responsibility. Once the doors to the heart are opened we are predisposed to be more responsible with our sexuality. From the awakened mind of great teachers come insights and guidelines to cultivate our own awakening. The Third Mindfulness Training is such a guideline. It helps us to know our own mind, to see habit energies and addictions for what they are, and guide us to become aware of the awakened mind that exists as seeds within our consciousness. This Training feeds those seeds and takes us to a place of non fear.

FOURTH MINDFULNESS TRAINING – Loving Speech and Deep Listening

 Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering within myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord, I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.

             If we learn to take care of our thoughts as the actions of our Mind, then we will take care of what we say as the actions of our Speech. We pay attention and discipline our thoughts, taking greater care of what we say. This ensures that the important guidelines of the Fourth Mindfulness Training are applied. Our speech also comes from our parents, ancestors, teachers and friends. Very often something comes out of our mouth which we instantly regret and we wonder, where on earth did that come from? We are a continuation of our ancestors and teachers. We have to be aware that in addition to all their mindful qualities we have also inherited harmful habits of speech. Children are often criticized and reprimanded at mealtimes, as that was the way our parents communicated. So children consume the energy of punishment along with their food. Frequently they will cut themselves off from their bodies while eating, so it is not surprising that so many children suffer from eating disorders. Family meal times can be changed from a battlefield that produces casualties. If parents would only take the time and effort to talk about what is going right, and empower young people rather than focus on supposed faults. Mindful mealtimes can transform family life. We must learn ways to be considerate in our speech, though it takes time, understanding and awareness.

This training is about the art of deep listening and the power of compassionate speaking. In our busy modern world very few people give their time or presence to listen deeply to anyone. Yet our presence is the greatest gift we can give, especially to children, for it bridges chasms of misunderstanding and heals wounds. The reason we do not listen is simple. We have ceased to listen to our true nature, the neglected internal component of ourselves that harbors our strengths, compassion and love. As we learn to touch this island within ourselves through meditation, then we can listen to others and deeply heal them with our full presence. Our perceptions are filled with incorrect judgments and this is what is fed by a toxic conversation. We rarely listen to the other speaking to us, simply because we are not present for them. We also do not listen to significant others in our lives. We are unskillful and often harmful. On the other hand the practice of meditation does not distort what is presented and provides freedom from the prison of prejudice. And so we train with the Fourth Mindfulness Training as a guide.

I remember the magical effects of being present and listening deeply with my children, particularly as I previously had a long history with them of not doing so! To truly love our children is to be present for them. Everything is available through our full presence. Being present, listening deeply from a compassionate heart, speaking lovingly is what the Fourth Mindfulness Training is about. It provides a practical and ethical guideline about what to do with our speech, listening and presence so we can bring about transformation and healing. We learn to listen to a different internal voice that has its foundation in goodness and decency. The capacity for deep listening and loving speech lies within everyone and this training guides us to develop and use these skills to relieve suffering in others. We all know that the power of words can cause distress, yet it can also bring about joy and happiness. The Fourth Mindfulness Training guides us to be aware of how we so often place judgments into our speech, and encourages us to reflect on our perceptions before we open our mouths. With our mouths wide open for mindless speech to spill out, we condemn and criticize without understanding. Blaming does not allow understanding and compassion to enter into the picture.

The Fourth Mindfulness Training encourages us to look deeply into the habit energies so powerfully wrapped round our speech, and to take care that we prevent separation and harm from coming into the lives of families and communities. At the same time we do our best to nurture the energy of reconciliation when conflicts are created by unkind and thoughtless words. In order to practice the art of deep listening we have to retrain ourselves so that the seeds of compassion and love are nurtured. But very often we have our own scars and personal baggage, which makes deep listening and compassionate speech difficult. Never before have there been so many means to communicate with one another, yet we remain isolated because our communication is shallow and meaningless, without depth. In our communications with others, our words and energy have the power to either uplift or harm. Very often we choose to harm, and though this may provide a moment of triumph, our speech action alienates us from that consciousness which brings happiness. When we cannot listen deeply, we cannot speak kindly.

The Fourth Mindfulness Training takes us into a deep investigation of what to do with our speech and the quality of our presence. What we do is often very unwise because the environment that surrounds us encourages us to be untruthful. We may believe it is innocuous to lie under certain circumstances, the proverbial white lie. Yet some part of our mind knows our integrity is compromised. When that volume is pumped up, however, politicians, business people, the media, bureaucrats feel they have to lie in order to be successful. Our elected representatives do not usually speak mindfully, or listen to anyone. Many are mindful only of public opinion polls and their re-election. A considerable proportion of the icons from the sports, entertainment, and media domains present posture and hype rather than truth, and we know that most of them lie. This environment that encourages untruth translates into a degraded nation, world and environment. Can we not set an example for our children by speaking the truth, by coming from the heart, by demonstrating the positive effects of deep listening and compassionate speech? An antidote such as the Fourth Mindfulness Training is needed to transform and heal the basis of our communication with others. This Training is the sword to cut through the Gordian knot of lying that tangles us in webs of deceit and destruction, and guides us in the direction of integrity and trust.

FIFTH MINDFULNESS TRAINING – Nourishment and Healing        

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or any other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in such a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.

This training is about the way we consume. It guides us to adopt new patterns of consumption so that our society becomes mindful and less violent. This is the necessary shift in consciousness required if we choose to actualize the Five Mindfulness Trainings in our daily lives. Then we can step more lightly on the planet and find ways to encourage people to consume mindfully and bring an end to violence. However, media, TV and advertising bombard our senses daily with violence. Indeed, we are encouraged to consume in a manner that supports a political/economic system based on greed. As long as we remain willing prisoners to this corporate ideology, we are unable to take responsibility for the world we live in and create. None of this is good for our mental and physical health. Our consciousness absorbs and is defined by all that we consume. If we continually consume toxins, violence and garbage, then it should not surprise us that this is the raw material for daily decision making. We are the sum of the nutriments we put into our beings, and to be healthy we must learn how to protect ourselves otherwise we will get sick and violent and create a sick and violent society.

Our consciousness stores everything. Deeply hidden in our mind are the addictions of our ancestors, the negativity, cruelty and discrimination throughout our species memory, our fears, hatreds and guilt. Also in our consciousness are the seeds of an enlightened mind, the Grace of God, the potential of understanding, compassion and love buried as seeds, waiting to grow. Guidelines such as the Mindfulness Trainings take us on a journey, so that the latter seeds are nurtured rather than the former. Without ethical guidelines rooted in a spiritual practice, we would suffer continuously from internal conflicts and confusion.

We can say, “This is not good for me”, or “This is not good for my children,” and then begin cultivating an alternative consumption that is good. Without mindfulness we are exposed to all kinds of energy-sucking elements that activate and indulge the seeds of violence, hatred, anger, terror and despair; all of which drain us of life force. As we begin to understand the effects of these energies feeding our worst attributes of mind, then we can stop. With insight we can cut off the energies that are damaging us. The Mindfulness Trainings provide the key. If we know what the nutriments are that feed our ill-being, particularly the potential state of violence within us, we can make the conscious decision to cut off the feeder supplies. Replace them with nutriments that support us moving in the direction of compassion and responsible ethical living. Remember, it is the ethical void in our lives that supports violence in daily expression of who we think they are.

The Fifth Mindfulness Training guides us out of this prison with a clear commitment to consume mindfully and thereby create a different kind of society, one that is responsible to ancestors and future generations. The issue of responsibility is the key to this training. because we interconnect with and affect everything. We must realize that lack of responsibility to the environment, ancestors and future generations, creates a very dangerous situation. If we do not choose to consume mindfully then we will destroy our world. We need to go on a diet of mindfulness for all aspects of our life, society and environment. It is possible to move in the direction of responsible and ethical living. This is what mindfulness practice is for. This is the hope and the remedy for violence in our society, in our children and on our planet.

We must deliberately cultivate the positive attributes in our minds and shine the light of recognition and mindfulness on our suffering, so that we can become steady and full of resolve to live differently. The Five Mindfulness Trainings provide us with a template to do exactly that, as we consciously choose to nurture patterns of behavior and habits that are wholesome and generous. In other words we make mindfulness practice our new habit! This is the only way to unravel the insidious internal knots caused by generations of ancestral habits, created from ignorance, vengeance and separation.  This is the work of the new revolutionary of the 21st century. It is not only a political and intellectual exercise, not only a matter of compromised treaties and cease fires. It is an internal transformation of consciousness at the core of our being.

I shape all of this this into a simple personal mantra: “I refrain from causing harm.” I know that by refraining from one thing that causes harm, I then prevent other harmful things from happening. I arrive at my own insight, which is not imposed by any outside authority. It takes mindfulness to do this and the Five Mindfulness Trainings provide the starting gate, a guidance system and a deep well of internal ethics to live by. Without them………….? I choose not to go there, as my commitment is to actualize these trainings in my life, and in the lives of others, to the best of my ability. That is my dance.

 

Essay 12: Shattering of Concepts

I am convinced that awareness of the impact of Climate Change is not enough. Awareness requires to be rooted in a spiritual tradition that honors the Earth Mother. Then action will ensue to mitigate and better anticipate Global Climate Change. Kindness, graciousness and discernment take the place of greed, corruption and neglect. In this collection of essays – Our World is Burning – I refer to this personal necessity in Essay 9: Healing Journeys, Essay 12: Shattering of Concepts and Essay 15: Guidelines to Reconstruct our World. I reveal my own spiritual training and place Essay 12 in this blog.

Essay Twelve: Shattering of Concepts

 Huddled on a bed in an ashram in Mumbai, India, I opened my eyes to see a visiting Swami sitting beside me. The small ashram was reserved for saints and holy men. I did not qualify for either category but felt their grace close at hand. One tangible and humorous manifestation of that grace was this visiting Swami beside my bed. He smiled broadly and helped me to sit up, then surprised me with his words:

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

He just beamed love and understanding to me. My reply as best I remember was to smile back and just say, “Me too!” The Swami made me some tea with herbs, provided a blessing and then left. When I went to sleep that night 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. I felt truly like me, very peaceful, no longer a maverick standing alone. Lying close to death, the lack of fear provided a sense of freedom and strength.

I had been invited for guru training in India by Rishi Prabhakar after meeting with him several times in Canada. He recognized something that I certainly did not. This adventure proved to be new territory for me. I had traveled to India in 1996 to teach and train in Siddha Samadhi Yoga. This Vedic tradition  was ecumenical in character, a wisdom tradition totally relevant to the modern day. By November 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. While in India I was privileged to have many treasures of wisdom made available to me.  There were two circumstances that opened so many doors. One rested on Thich Nhat Hanh’s book of meditations, The Blooming of a Lotus. Before leaving for India in 1996, at the last moment I picked up this book and placed it in my backpack. As I observed in November and December of 1996  my body’s systems crashing one by one I knew this was serious. My companion for this passage with death was Master Hanh’s book of meditations. I was astonished by my calmness and hope to find a similar equanimity for death’s next visit.

In my family and culture there is very little discussion or clarity about death and dying, though as a child I had an intuitive understanding. I remember when my grandfather died when I was a small boy. I felt him as a tangible presence even when he was in his coffin and quietly whispered to this gracious, gentle 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 wiped my tears away with her handkerchief and listened carefully to me before walking into the living room of her house. With quiet authority she asked everyone to be quiet and 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. From that turning point I knew clearly that preparation for death was also training for life, though I did not always pay close attention to this insight.

The opportunity for liberation at the time of death was an intriguing notion. I could see that my obstacles of ego and habitual patterns of behavior were in the way of a sound preparation. I did want to merge my consciousness at the time of death with what the Sufis call “The Great Magnificence.”  Or if I got confused or fearful, to be able to receive guidance to do so. From my understanding of the Tibetan bardos I felt that if my death was an aware one, then in the bardo of “becoming” my consciousness would take a form that would serve all sentient beings. That struck a recycling chord, which appealed to the ecologist in me! The retraining of my mind was done fitfully, not in a consistent manner, until just before I left for India to take up the life of a yogi. There the preparation became a daily practice of being aware of universal consciousness totally prepared to merge with my pitifully weak and not-so-awakened mind. My leap of faith was that understandings about death and dying were all in the mind. This meant that in everyday living I could use my mind to take steps to prepare for that final moment of merging with the wisdom mind of the universe and just perhaps be able to do this while I was alive. Perhaps the “alive” piece of the puzzle is the whole point!

Still, I was surprised by my lack of panic in the face of death. As December drew towards its close I totally surrendered. I will always remember Saturday, December 21, 1996. On that day I let go of all attachments to my body and surrendered to a sense of freedom never before experienced. Throughout the day and evening I read The Blooming of a Lotus from cover to cover, practicing meditations that spoke to me. I felt at one with all my spiritual ancestors. I felt Thich Nhat Hanh’s wisdom, love and gentleness as a tangible presence watching over me. The meditations in The Blooming of a Lotus carried me over many thresholds, some of which I was aware of at the time, most, however, I did not discern their significance until much later. The meditations took me deeply into my roots of being and I felt very calm about the impermanence of bodily existence. My heart opened very wide and I thought about my many mistakes and chose not to deny them or brush aside the bodily pain. I knew that the experiences of joy and freedom flooding through me were dissolving both. During this whole period of time I felt very simple, that I was living properly. I was without panic, present with whatever was happening or arising. I did not fear death. It just did not compute. This lack of fear gave me a sense of freedom and strength. It opened a huge door to send love and joy to all. I felt truly like me, very peaceful, not pulled in any direction. Despite all that was going on I was solidly with each second of time in a totally timeless way. Whatever gifts, skills and energies I could contribute to bring joy and love to others was there to freely share. That is the only manner in which I can describe what was happening. I finally understood the significance of the Buddha’s Five Remembrances Meditation:

  1. Knowing I will get old, I breathe in. Getting old

Knowing I cannot escape old age,

I breathe out.                                               No escape

  1. Knowing I will get sick, I breathe in. Getting sick

Knowing I cannot escape sickness,

I breathe out.                                               No escape

  1. Knowing I will die, I breathe in. Dying

Knowing I cannot escape death,

I breathe out.                                               No escape

  1. Knowing that one day I will lose

all I hold dear today,  I breathe in,              Losing what I hold dear

Knowing I cannot escape losing

all I hold dear today,  I breathe out. No escape

  1. Knowing that my actions are my

only belongings, I breathe in.                      Actions true belongings

Knowing that I cannot escape the

consequences of my actions, I breathe out. No escape from consequences

  1. Determined to live my days mindfully

in the present moment, I breathe in. Living mindfully

Experiencing the joy and the benefit of

living mindfully, I breathe out.                    Experiencing benefits and joy

  1. Offering joy and love each day to my

loved ones, I breathe in.                              Offering love

    Easing the pain and suffering of my
    loved ones, I breathe out.                            Easing suffering

 

By looking into these major fears I personally experienced all of them. It made exquisite sense and carried me into a state of non-fear. There was nothing overlooked or pushed to one side. My mind was very clear. The Five Remembrances were not located in the depths of my consciousness. They were my existential reality. I neither welcomed them in nor rejected them. They were just there, my own personal gang of five. There was no internal battleground or struggle. To be with myself at this time, happy and content with the existing moment, was all that I had. And it was enough.

I smiled quietly at the first five stanzas guiding me to let go and was totally refreshed by the last two stanzas about living my days deeply in mindfulness and offering love and joy to loved ones to alleviate their suffering. I felt the universal nature of this wonderful benediction for both living and dying. The Five Remembrances brought my attention to impermanence; on growing old, getting sick, dying, losing loved ones, and realizing that my only possessions are the consequences of my actions. The final two stanzas of the meditation show the way; to live mindfully in each moment and offer joy to loved ones. As I practiced this meditation I felt that each moment of life was absolutely precious. Somehow I was communicating this to all that I connected with. Before I slept that night I felt my teachers and guides throughout lifetimes gathering together inside and around me, without boundaries. They stayed there while I slept. I was content and happy.

The next morning, to my surprise and joy I woke up. Over the next six months I slowly recovered my health.   Friends in North America who tune in to me very closely had in December booked airline tickets to take me out of India to recover in their home. I was touched by their love, but gently said “No” after thanking my friends for their loving concern. Whatever the outcome of this particular journey, it was to be in India. I had written countless Christmas cards to friends and loved ones all over the world and signed them: “Blessings and Love from Ian”. That is what I wanted to send out before my death. Then I lived, and was happy that the cards were sent.

The second circumstance that opened so many doors had to do with the shattering of my concepts on an almost daily basis. I would have perceptions and judgments about a situation, person or event and would rapidly discover that my perceptions were without foundation. I allowed my concepts to shatter. They were replaced by further perceptions and judgments. But I allowed them to also shatter. I felt a depth not previously known. This is something I call upon when perceptions and judgments crowd into my consciousness. This willingness not to hold on to concepts or to even hold on to being with my body put me into a different orbit. In this orbit, doors opened wide that otherwise would not have opened. I felt unseen hands guiding me through a stupendous year of initiations, mind training and transformations. I felt very privileged to receive the wisdom traditions of India.

Yet how difficult I made it for myself, with self-doubt, struggles of purification and stringent endeavors to get it right. It was actually so much simpler than that. It is to just be present with what is there. My happiness and delight came through Being with humanity, the planet and the universe, and Serving the same with joy. Yet I did get caught at times in the process of struggle and purification. Then for no apparent reason the veils of illusion dropped away. A natural, overflowing delight in Being and Serving arose spontaneously. I know I can never be as I was, nor do I wish to. I am simply grateful for all the gifts of transformation received. I also wonder about sharing these deeply personal experiences. I do not hold on to them and simply observe their effects on particular steps I took to tame my wild mind. The sharing is to illustrate that my approach to life comes about through experience, crises, difficulties and joys that may have common ground with many readers. That if I can take steps along the spiritual path then surely anyone can.

To the best of my ability I endeavor to follow Gandhi’s principles of ahimsa and the teachings on mindfulness. These are the guidelines and foundations for my peace and environmental activism. I am vegetarian, well mostly, and live very simply as a planetary  activist. So are there seeds of anger in my consciousness after all of this process? Are they still there? Of course they are. It is simply incumbent upon me to take care of them when they arise, to surround them with mindfulness and transform their potential to cause harm. It is my job to ensure that I am not overwhelmed by their energy, that I embrace the seeds of anger with the tools and practices I have received from my teachers. I observe how seeds of anger manifest in my thoughts and know that my thoughts are capable of doing damage to myself and to others.  But my practice has changed somewhat over the past three decades. It is not so much a focus on anger and violence but an observation of the tricks of ego.

My daily practice now is to observe how my ego attaches to specific mental formations in order to take my consciousness into separation and illusion. That is the job of the ego. It cannot do anything else except attach to negative mental formations and drive them to distort and manipulate in order to separate me from my true nature. When I catch this happening in a train of thought and I do not always catch it, but when I do I say:

Hello my dear ego. Are you here again? Are you not tired of attaching to these old mental formations that you have used so often before? Why don’t you come and have a rest? Why not rest in the consciousness of my heart?

The ego really has no answer to this. That is what I do when I catch a train of thought filtered through anger and ego. I am not always successful in catching it, but when I do I feel happy, really good, as the excesses of my wild mind are not translating into actions that can cause harm.

While in India I also undertook two twenty eight day retreats, six months apart. They 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 would observe my mental states, compare them with reports from my peers, and then discuss them with the Swami overseeing the training. 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 Mantra 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 complex and overwhelming. I frequently wondered if I would ever get it right but benefited enormously from the 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.

The second training period in a different part of India, Karnataka as opposed to Andra Pradesh, was with a new cohort made up of experienced meditation teachers and exceptional gurus. 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 Mantra. I never felt it necessary to communicate this to the Swami or to members of my second cohort. I went into total silence and do not recall talking to anyone, as everyone very carefully left me there.

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 acknowledge the grace of a guru now recognized with the name bestowed upon me: Prem Chaytania. My wisdom buddies were delighted by this. 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.

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. This partial account of my journey in India is to demonstrate that my activism for peace, planetary care and social justice now come 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, uncolored by the excess of ego and desire for 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. As for the rest of my life, that it is still a work in progress!

 

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.

             

Are We Stupid? Climate Change Unhinged.

Essay Three: Are We Stupid?                                                                                                                                                                           

Oscar nominee Pete Postlethwaite plays the best role of his acting career in the film “The Age of Stupid.”  The movie fast forwards us to the year 2055.  Pete plays the sole fictional character in this riveting film.  He stars as an old man living alone in a world totally decimated by global warming.  His location is the High Arctic.  How prophetic this makes James Lovelock’s conclusion from his 2006 book Revenge of Gaia. In an interview about this book, Lovelock provides a dire prediction for humanity: “Before this century is over, billions of us will die, and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.”

The character played by Postlethwaite is the curator of The Global Archive, a digital storage laboratory located in the Arctic. It is the last habitable place for humans on Planet Earth.  The footage he views shows how global warming reached tipping points and runaway effects while at the same time humanity’s achievements are also saved for posterity.  How could the human mind capable of such monumental achievements neglect to take care of the destruction happening to their lived-in-ecosystem?  The old man shakes his head in disbelief looking for an answer.  The film gives us an answer – carbon based energy. Our addictive dependence to it is what propelled the downward spiral of devastation. The addictive process was enabled because we allowed the environment to become an extension of human egocentric needs and values, an ego-sphere rather than an eco-sphere. In this ego-sphere we consumed mindlessly in the global economy without regard for ecosystem balance or concern about creating inequality, poverty and ecosystem imbalance.  Planetary care is not on this agenda, as the film graphically shows.  We see the old man in the High Arctic watching archival video footage, carefully preserved from 2008.  His stark question to the viewer is: “Why didn’t we stop climate change in 2008 when there was a chance?”

The director of the film, Fanny Armstrong, creates a montage from live news and documentaries saved from 1950 to 2008.  The video record charts the steps taken by humanity into global devastation – devastating that is for human habitation and for all other species. In an artfully created mosaic, six real life characters play out the dramas of their personal stories.  Their humanity and incredible stupidity are extant in this brilliant tapestry of human folly.  What is so gripping is that we who view it are made to feel distinctly uncomfortable, because their shadows and myopia reflect our own. The shadows and myopia arrive as a projection of our political and corporate leaders.  After watching this film we can no longer hide from these shadows.  We are forcibly held to account.  If we do not act now, this film then becomes our story.

Two Forks In the Road – Which One Will We Take?

I talked about the Failsafe in Consciousness concept in my 2008 work, Failsafe: Saving The Earth From Ourselves, to describe how consciousness expansion will be held back by a deliberately cultivated ignorance about better knowledge. That is until the global ecological situation deteriorates to a breaking point. My thought was that this breaking point will then act as a catalyst, exposing such ignorance. At which point consciousness is propelled into expansion, deliberation and change. My vision was a very positive one, as I believed that humanity could create new structures and organizations out of which emerge the radical solutions to address the environmental crises. We have the knowledge to create this, but the obstacles that stand in the way are not technological. They are the attitudes, values and concepts that define the present dominance of corporate values, rampantly consolidated through “turbo-capitalism.” I argued that the necessary clarity to deal with the global environmental crises will emerge, once our thoughts, values and attitudes change and no longer sustain and feed our internal pollution. This is the radical internal Climate Change necessary to engage intelligently with the external Climate Change.

There is certainly global awareness, but also fear about our future place on Planet Earth. The overwhelming terror of Gaia crashing down on us is unbearable. Yet I asked the reader to take hold of the 2% option that creates the opportunity for the Failsafe in Consciousness to function and multiply. I recall many years ago when I was teaching meditation in India, hearing Sai Baba, the Indian sage, say that a transformation in human consciousness required at least 2% of the population to meditate on a daily basis. I have no idea what the knowledge source was for his pronouncement yet I do remember the “buzz” of energy in my body and mind when I heard it. I do not remember anything but that from the audience with him, yet have retained it as a distinct possibility, translating this wisdom into the 2% option. This is do-able and within our immediate grasp. Just persuade 2% of the people we know to implement a lifestyle of voluntary simplicity, reduce meat consumption, walk or cycle more, drive less, create an organic garden, plant a tree – but do it! Reduce our ecological footprint by conserving energy with one eco-friendly act every day, then global consciousness as a collective human phenomenon will change. Different questions will be asked and different solutions found, as a new mind-set of shared consciousness emerges to make the necessary decisions for change.  Mass awakening does not mean that everyone “wakes” up.  A critical mass of 2% will be satisfactory as a tipping point, the catalyst, to get things moving in the right direction.

To make Failsafe a robust concept I identified three interconnected components:

  1. Innate Earth Wisdom,
  2. Counter Culture and
  3. Tipping Points in Consciousness.

We do in fact possess innate earth wisdom. Ninety-nine per cent of our evolution as a species relied on a hunting and gathering adaptation known as foraging, a strategy of adaptation based on sophisticated ecosystem knowledge, which was integrated into harvesting patterns through a spiritual understanding of the world. That is still hardwired into our brain and I thought it was simply a matter of re-accessing what we already possess. My anthropological logic pointed to the radical remembering of this mindset in order to activate the feedback cycle needed to prevent further degradation of the global ecosystem. I note how the modern day counter culture pulled together the Ecology of Ideas from Gregory Bateson, Rachel Carson’s Radical Ecology and the fostering of Gaia as metaphor and social movement through feminists, environmentalists, and the New Age beads and incense set. This unusual coalition established a broad consensus that provided a foundation for the new science of Eco-psychology. The counter culture also touched base with a responsible corporate response and the emergence of the powerful anti-globalization movement.

A massive global citizen response will certainly elicit an equally massive government and corporate response, as the bottom-up movement and top-down strategies for drastic change meet and integrate. There is not room in this Global Ecological Emergency for separating into “US’ and “THEM” categories. We are totally interconnected whether we like it or not.  We will all live together or we will all die together. An intelligent green ideology embedded in everything we produce and market is a means to bridge competing agendas. Our dependence on fossil fuels reduces because we are aware of the deadly consequences of our addiction to oil and coal. The transition to a carbon neutral global energy system over the next few decades will be costly and require a massive response from government and corporate leaders to initiate the second industrial revolution. This is necessary to blunt the impact of climate change. It is a huge global industrial project that governments and corporations can bring about due to citizen pressure to “Make It So!” Global warming has certainly entered public consciousness. It just has to penetrate the corridors of political and corporate power. As global citizens we must find the ways and means to support the shift in consciousness at all levels of global society to make this so. Our future existence, and the existence of other species on planet earth, depends on making a new beginning for all of us.

Tipping points in consciousness are about achieving a critical mass for radical change and draw on the new science of Neuroplasticity that clearly demonstrates we are not necessarily stuck with present mindsets. Our mindsets can be changed but that takes extensive and diligent internal work. Just as there are tipping points in the external ecology of Gaia, so must there be tipping points in the internal ecology of consciousness.

“The Age of Stupid” is a watershed film.  You will not be the same after you have seen it.  It is impossible not to be moved in a constructive direction of immediate action.  For the latter, I refer the reader to Failsafe’s Appendix I: Simple Steps to Empowerment, which provides guidelines and an action plan for the global ecological emergency. The steps are:

  1. Take Action
  2. Get Up Close And Personal
  3. Reduce Your Ecological Footprint
  4. Guidelines for Business and the Workplace
  5. The “Big” Picture for The Future
  6. Science and Diversity
  7. Environmental Organizations
  8. Warning to Governments

The Scientific American journal published “10 Solutions for Climate Change” much later and basically endorsed my Appendix.  If only we can get it right – and get it right now!

The hopeful trajectory is that our diligent mindfulness has changed our brain structures in the direction that permits new paradigms of behavior to come into form.  As cells in the ecosystem of Gaia it is as though humanity has aligned their neuronal networks with principles of ecosystem balance, ethics and responsibility.  The critical mass has arrived and it amounts to a collective tipping point for our species.  Once the wild, ego driven, greed driven mind is reined in then clarity and compassion are suddenly there to provide the basis for how we can be with the planet and with one another in a totally new way.  This is what happens if we “Begin It Now” – the concluding words to Failsafe: Saving The Earth From Ourselves.

The best case scenario is that we get on with the task of reining in our ego and greed driven mind.  This permits a Failsafe in Consciousness to kick in because conditions have been created by our choice to cultivate different patterns within our minds. Thus consciousness expansion can no longer be held back as the radical internal Climate Change has taken place.  Our innate knowledge is manifest. We interconnect with a vast counter culture that is no longer a minority, no longer asleep or disempowered. We become another light shining in the quiet revolution that has over two million organizations world-wide pursuing constructive change.

However, I underestimated the lure and power of the Second Fork. Should a Failsafe in Consciousness prove to be unfounded, we are then faced with the likelihood that humanity is a failed genetic experiment. If we continue to turn our beautiful rivers into sewers because of our endless greed and neglectful ignorance, it is obvious that there is no place on Mother Earth to support our present civilization. That too will join the trash heap collectively created by mindless generations of humanity.  If consciousness is too slow to change and make the quantum leap to a culture of sustainability then there are drastic consequences to contemplate, which are starkly portrayed in the film. The ancient ecologist on Mars studying a million years of earth history would note a parasitic infestation of Planet Earth that was not very intelligent. An intelligent parasite would ensure the good health of the host that supports it. And so the Martian biologist would factor in an inevitable elimination date for our species in her star-date log and may well view our civilization as a failed genetic experiment.

This is a sobering metaphor, yet we have to accept it as a potential reality staring at us from the very near future. Our present values and patterns of consumption are the architects of the present global ecological emergency, as we remain ignorant to the consequences of the fact that everything interconnects. We are, in fact, our environment. It is our collective habits, thoughts and patterns of mindlessness that have created a flimsy, uncertain future for our species on Planet Earth. Yet civilizations rise, civilizations fall. Once we can accept that we have created the conditions for the present global civilization to die, then and only then can we find a respite. During this respite, perhaps it is possible for insights to emerge that will bring radical change to our values, habits and mindset.

It is very difficult in modern day civilization to accept death, whether it is of a loved one, ourselves or the planet. The usual response is fear and denial. We have to re-educate our minds to get past these two obstacles. For once we can clearly recognize the reality that our present form of civilization is dying we know that despair and denial will do us no good. Instead, a window opens in our mind for peace and steadiness to enter, which could then propel our species to live differently so that we may create a future on planet earth. This requires a mass awakening of attributes that run counter to the bottom line of turbo-capitalism and the ecology of greed. It does require a candid acceptance, without fear, that our global civilization in its present form is coming to an end. Such an acceptance can actually free the mind from its chains and enable mindful engagement to naturally arise. Such a way of life, such an acceptance of our true reality on the planet, can be the springboard to mitigate the course of environmental collapse. The energy and power to avert the disaster facing us rests in our minds and in a new collective choice to live very differently.

Because of all the warning signals, however, allow me to be starkly realistic. If the Failsafe in Consciousness does not kick in, the field is open for James Lovelock’s conclusions to take root. But perhaps after all the Arctic Circle may not be such a bad evolutionary staging point, as digital records, carefully preserved as archaeological relics, could provide clear guidelines for future civilizations to conduct themselves more appropriately with respect to the Earth Mother. A million years from now is merely a blink of an eye in geological time. After Global Warming destroys the present habitable eco-niche any future civilization that evolves will be able to draw on the triumphs and failures of our present civilization.

I finish with Dave Hampton’s passionate thoughts about this film (Resurgence May/June 2009: 66).  “The Age of Stupid is not just a film that could change the course of humanity.  I hope it will be the catalyst that gives us a second chance to create a sustainable future.  I hope it will promote a mass collective awakening globally such that we are not stupid and that we choose life and reclaim our children’s birthright – the right to expect a future.”

I have fourteen grandchildren. In the same vein as this film, I wrote Failsafe: Saving The Earth from Ourselves. Consider this book as archival footage from 2008 that provides hope and an action plan so that my grandchildren can enjoy a habitable planet. Should the adversity of Climate Change overwhelm humanity – then a different question arises. What will we then choose to do as a paradigm of behavior?

 

Glance at the sun

See the moon

And the stars

Gaze at the beauty

Of the earth’s

Greening

 

Now Think

 

Hildergard of Bingen 1098 – 1179

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Ink Review of Redemption: A Novel.

Redemption: A Novel is winner of the General Fiction category of the 2015 Florida Book Festival. Awards Ceremony, Saturday January 31, 7pm – 10pm at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Orlando, Florida.

Redemption Ian Prattis Xlibris, 126 pages, (paperback) $15.99.

Redemption front cover

Callum Mor is a happy, adventurous little boy loved by everyone. All signs point to an extraordinary life ahead. But as the narrator of this rich and well-drawn novel reveals early on, Callum’s life is not to be the joyful journey predicted, but one of tragedy and suffering. The tale, set in the Hebrides, islands off the northwest coast of Scotland, is written with a touch of the Scottish brogue. It begins as the young, diminutive Callum Mor – or “Callum, the Large One,” as others ironically refer to him – slips away from his classroom to accompany his uncle and a friend on their lobster boat. Callum returns to his home with a bag of crab claws, inspiring an idyllic scene around the table, but beneath the joyous scene lies impending heartbreak.

http://youtu.be/9ohImbVX57g

Among his troubles is a difficult situation with his father, Andrew, a man who is rarely at home and barely knows his own children. Despite few opportunities available for supporting them, he leaves his job at sea to do exactly that — to tragic consequence. Callum endures his father’s fate, other childhood heartbreaks and violence among those close to him, growing into a capable, respected fisherman — until his girlfriend shares her shameful secret, and Callum changes into a hard man with no regard for his own safety or that of his crews. But fate isn’t yet finished with Callum Mor. Author Ian Prattis immediately establishes the setting “of this blustery and ancient land,” infusing the story with Scottish culture and color, as well as the hardworking character of the men and women who fill the pages.

The novel is by turns, poetic, brutal, sorrowful and humorous, making for an enjoyable read that is ultimately about the triumph of the human spirit.   Redemption is likely to be enjoyed by a wide readership — and will be particularly appreciated by those with sweet spot for Scotland. A screenplay has been created: https://ianprattis.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/redemption-screenplay-recommendation/ Also available in hardcover and ebook from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Order through http://www.ianprattis.com/Redemption.html

Why Did I write “Trailing Sky Six Feathers”?

When I talk to folk about Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey With His Muse the first question is usually “Why did you write this?” 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.

Front Cover Trailing Sky Six Feathers

Who would be interested? There are four audiences I would like to reach with this work.

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.

There are three other groups of people I wrote my book for. Come back next week to find out!

On Being Splendid

When a friend asks – “How are you?” – we tend to automatically reach for a standard descriptor such as “Fine”; “Not Too bad” or “Could Be Worse.” Our automatic pilot rarely delivers uplifting, generous responses. Something obstructs us from replying “I am splendid” or “I am feeling absolutely marvellous.” If we should make such an extraordinary response, we would not really believe it. A serious problem exists that requires investigation. Let me begin by breaking “Fine” down into an acronym:
F – Freaked out
I – Insecure
N – Neurotic
E – Elsewhere.
It is possible to choose other somewhat depressing terms, though I choose the Buddha’s Four Clay Pots metaphor as a starting point for this investigation.

The Buddha categorized his listeners into four different kinds of clay vessels. The first clay pot has holes at the bottom, so whatever is poured into it goes right through the bottom into the ground. No matter what wise skilful teaching or practice is offered to clay pot person number one, absolutely nothing is retained. The second clay pot is one that has many cracks in it. If water is poured in, it all eventually seeps out. The teachings may be retained for a short while, yet sooner or later they are completely forgotten. The third clay pot is one that is completely full. Water cannot be poured into it because it is already full to the brim. A person with characteristics of this vessel is so full of views, self-righteousness and wrong perceptions that they cannot be taught anything about the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Then there is the fourth clay pot – an empty vessel without holes or cracks, empty of views and attitudes. We may recognize that at different times we occupy one or another of the first three pots and thus strive to move to pot number four. How can we do this?

Buddha Picture

To be completely empty of a separate self, as the fourth clay pot, is what our mindfulness practice leads to. On the way there we are bound to have views and attitudes, but may be significantly empty enough to take in the teachings and practices that can move us along the path of awakening. Step by step we let go of clinging and attachment to views and re-build our minds so that equanimity and peacefulness arise. We discover that the art of Being Present is what all of the Buddha’s teachings, practices and trainings lead to. From this vast tool kit of transformation we then use intelligent awareness to work with strong emotions and let go of all clinging and their damaging consequences. The trio of Mindfulness, Concentration and Insight become our best friend, as we step into freedom from brainwashing. I touch base with the Shambhala Warrior training to address the matter of “Being Splendid.”

What does it take before we can relax into our inherent goodness and be authentically “Splendid”? In the teachings brought to the west by Chogyam Trungpa there is a strong emphasis on Shambhala warrior training. The fifth and final level is the sense of splendidness. It is preceded by four interconnected levels:

1. Being free of deception by recognizing afflictive emotions and discerning habit energies.
2. Truly entering the freedom of being present in each moment.
3. Embracing the vision of sacredness of ourselves and the world.
4. Bringing mind and body together because we are grounded and in harmony with the world around us. (Sakyong Mipham, 2011, Shambhala Sun, November 2011)

In the fifth level, building on these prior steps, we attain confidence in our inherent goodness and simply radiate the energy of splendidness. This visceral sense of unyielding trust in our inherent goodness, of being splendid, enables us to become spiritual hubs and beacons of an extraordinary nature. All the great spiritual masters had this sense and shared it without deception or ego. This power of transformation comes from a place of steady well-being, strength and confidence in our ability to be brilliant and to shine in the face of any adversity. Linji refers to this phenomenon as being rooted in our own sovereignty as Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us in his excellent account of Master Linji in Nothing to Do, Nowhere To Go – Parallax, 2007. Sakyong Mipham rounds out the sense of being splendid through his emphasis on being present in everything we do, choosing to no longer hide behind habitual patterns and old memory tapes. A lack of splendidness simply attracts sorry-ass individuals to ourselves and they become complicit with our hiding patterns. It makes better sense to have the lucidity to train ourselves to be splendid rather than close down and hide.

Cymbals at vesak

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.

Environmentalists
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

Notes on Completing the Manuscript

The final brush strokes adorn Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse. My diary and scribbles about completing the manuscript provide a glimpse of the work. In 2014 the hard work begins – finding a publisher and agent to bring this memoir to life, so it can be shared.

 DCF 1.0

Carolyn and I journeyed by car to a secluded cottage on a beautiful Ontario lake in the summer of 2010 so I could at last begin the work on this manuscript. In the solitude gracefully offered, a first draft about four centuries of my consciousness began to emerge. How do I write about The Muse – Trailing Sky Six Feathers – my Native American wife and medicine woman in whose arms I died in 1777? That is what I was about to find out.  She vows to find me in a future time, despite the overwhelming resistance from my intellectual mind to remember her.

Past life memories collide head on with my present life, all thanks to the persistence of Trailing Sky Six Feathers, the Muse who refused to give up. The relentless shadowing by this engaging Muse from the 18th century brings understanding not only to me, but to anyone striving to overcome the darkness of their past. In 2010, after an intense internal dialogue with Trailing Sky Six Feathers, I asked if I should write her story. I heard her affirmation. This first mapping is to examine my notes and rough outlines of chapters to see if I am capable of writing this story. This book had been percolating in my mind for over two hundred and thirty years. No doubt it will simmer for a few years more. My time at this remote cottage was set within the discipline and compass of meditation. I kept a diary that may sound like a Star Date log.

March 2010

In the spring of 2010 the first line was written in the Zen room of my son’s house in Nanaimo:

“Put your weapons down, my husband,” Trailing Sky said quietly with steely insistence.

Then I scribbled a few chapters in longhand with my gold plated fountain pen. How archaic can one get?

August 2010

Secluded Cottage set on a high rock bluff overlooking the northern arm of a long lake.

Purpose: Completion of first draft of Trailing Sky Six Feathers

Friday, August 6, 2010

We arrived late in the evening at the cottage, which invited us in immediately. It was at the end of a long solitary lane and stood on a high rock bluff overlooking the lake. Mixed forest surrounded the laneway and sacred cedars formed an amphitheater of trees to the north of the building. A dock for canoes sat quietly bobbing by the lakeshore.

Moksha, our goofy six year old standard poodle, demonstrated that she is growing up at last. Most dogs are mature by then, but Moksha prefers to remain a puppy for as long as she can. Moksha is Sanskrit for “Liberation,” an appropriate name for a dharma dog.  But in her first six years of being a wrecking ball “Tsunami” would be a better descriptor. Perhaps she is growing into her true name, as she behaved beautifully in the woods and by the lake. She came when called and would constantly check in to see that we were OK while she patrolled her new territory. After unloading the car and meditating by the lakeshore, we placed our bed on the screened deck overlooking the lake. We listened to the night sounds – the soft call of the loons and the occasional hoot from a long eared owl before sleeping deeply. Moksha detected other beings with various woofs and growls – to no avail – as they, and we, totally ignored her.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Carolyn noticed the previous evening that I had entered a “zone” of concentration – a natural unfolding into the stretching tendrils of meditation practice. It aided my first documentation of memories that constitute this book. We woke up to the early morning dancing light sweeping across the screened in deck. Moksha was still snoozing at the foot of our bed, dreaming of all the rabbits and ducks she would chase that day. Moksha had her usual breakfast – half of whatever I was eating, usually sharing a slice of toast with cheese and jam on it.

Working meditation brought attention to cottage chores, food preparation for the day while tuning in to Mother Nature. She was in splendor.  Lazy flights of mergansers were chased away by blue jays. A slow moving porcupine was having breakfast in a tall alder tree, ignoring the squirrels who scurried quickly by. No sign of the loons who had serenaded us to sleep, but several downy woodpeckers were busy hammering insects and grubs from the bark of the surrounding trees. Then Qi-Gong exercises on the outside deck. Three sets of this ancient Chinese system of health care: first set to warm up, second to balance the body and mind and a final set to boost the immune system.  Walking meditation with Moksha with compulsory frisby throwing for her swift pursuit. This continued until one mighty throw from Carolyn saw the green frisby curl slowly over an inlet and plop into a marsh – beyond recovery.

Manuscript meditation. I focused on the rough outline of the final chapter: The Circle Closes. I recalled to mind the insanity of sea voyages in my small clinkered boat off the Hebridean Islands, jagged emeralds in the North Atlantic. I also remembered the difficulties and suffering in my life at that time some forty years ago. It was a miracle I was still alive. I shook my head in disbelief at some of the memories, as I did not possess the skills or knowledge to navigate through storm laden seas. Nor did I like my graceless oblivion of sliding into alcohol and depression. Such mental dwelling was abruptly interrupted by the joyful arrival of my friends Joe and Helen to spend an afternoon with us at their cottage.  I discussed the book with Joe – he had seen an overview and was enthusiastic about my work.  Talking to him about the work remaining helped to clarify matters in my own mind.  We toasted their recent wedding – a lovely union for their latter days in life. Carolyn prepared a wonderful dinner and played her Celtic harp afterwards.  A meditation in itself. Joe and Helen returned to Ottawa after supper – leaving us with all kinds of goodies to eat and drink.

I had the cleaning up chores as Carolyn had cooked. While washing up the dishes I talked to her about the last chapter, with a number of questions in my mind. Once the chores were done, I settled down to rework the notes for the final chapter from the hard copy that had Carolyn’s comments and suggestions. I had my “mini-mee” computer with me.   All the files I needed for the book were on a memory stick. The joys and benefits of modern technology were now in the hands of a techno-peasant.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Wake up and rise at 6.00 a.m. Coffee and Silence. Deep appreciation for breakfast. You already know what Moksha had. I would test her with melon, oranges and other foods she did not like. But at breakfast time it was always half of whatever I was eating. Without fail. While Carolyn attended to the chores and her own harp practice I began work on the manuscript. It was lovely to listen to her playing the harp while I concentrated. On the screened in deck overlooking the lake from high on the rock bluff, I set up a small table and a comfortable chair. I plugged in my computer and slipped the memory stick into its socket. From this vantage point I could enjoy the vista of lake, rock and harp during respites from writing. The last was first. I carefully pulled together the notes for Chapter Six: The Circle Closes, not realizing then that I would later split it into two chapters. This dissection of words was eventually applied to Chapter Four: Remembering and to Chapter Five: Healing and Transformation.  Then to the beginning – Chapter One: The Raid – set in 18th century Arizona before contact between indigenous communities and the Spanish and Americans. The opening chapter never fails to move me deeply, though there were clumsy passages that I rewrote.

Carolyn’s voice gently called, “Lunch is ready.” I had no sense of time. Lunch was followed by walking meditation with Moksha. It sounds better to translate the Sanskrit to English to make it: “Walking Meditation with Liberation!”  Only this time without her green frisby sunk into the marsh. Before returning to the manuscript I did Qi-Gong exercises on the outside deck – three sets.

Manuscript meditation. I progressed steadily with editing the draft files of Chapter Two: Renewal and Chapter Four: Remembering. I knew Chapter Four would be difficult – and it was, as this was the transition between time frames. Carolyn brought my supper out to me as she could see how engrossed I was in this task.

Torrential downpour ensued – almost like a monsoon. Carolyn had packed her harp and other gear, as she had to return to Ottawa for work next day. She took Moksha with her, as I would likely forget about the dog’s needs. As the rain intensified I wondered if she would get out of here before morning. But the downpour relented. I found some rain slickers in one of Joe’s cupboards and quickly packed up the car and Moksha. After a hug and lingering kiss – Carolyn waved goodbye and drove away to Ottawa. She would be back to pick me up on Tuesday evening.

The silence in the cottage was palpable, yet full of resonance. I had moved my computer and documents inside to protect them from the incessant rain. On Joe’s CD player there was a disc of Pine Gate Meditations that Carolyn and I created some years ago. I relaxed for a while with the sound of Carolyn singing chants and my voice speaking the meditations. I enjoyed our creation. But there was another creation that was crying out for my attention. Hours later I released a contented sigh. I came to the end of the first review of the notes and scribbles for the manuscript. I was tired but satisfied. I knew I would have to return to Chapter Six: The Circle Closes and especially to the chapter on Remembering, as that is the pivotal cog of the book. Plus some attention to the discussion of Jung, as my views on his work have changed. A decision had to be made about the title of the book. It was not until three years later that I hit the right button with Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I had slept in! I smiled at that. No early morning coffee from Carolyn’s gentle hands. The weather had calmed, though it was still overcast. The lake was still. The screened deck would need a mopping up so it could dry out and make way for my writing table. Breakfast, coffee and toast in delightful silence. Deep Appreciation. Once I was dressed, my thoughts were at a temporary rest as I took on the task of weeding the stone patio outside the cottage. I think the stones had received little or no attention for forty years, so I was happy to weed it little by little and let my mind be still. I weeded and pulled up invading shrubs, noticing the generations of bugs that had been there. Quite a meditation of sorts as the stones had soaked up the history of the place and they were walking me through it as I patiently pulled up weeds for the compost.

The hot water was not working, so I made a few trips to the lake with large buckets. I decided to leave all the day’s dishes in the sink until evening and wash them up in one go. I needed a shower, though there was nobody around to smell me. I filled the large iron pot on the wood stove. The luxury of warm water using the bucket and rinse method I had last experienced in India was sweet. Two great blue herons flew stately past while I was fetching water. They are always a good omen for me. Very few boats on the lake this morning – indicating the weekend is over. But not for me. While the bathing water was heating up, I cleaned the deck and took the compost out and completed the few cottage chores that were essential. I thought a clean fresh Ian may be a good presentation to the manuscript. Two blue jays in the tall cedar in front of the cottage squawked in agreement.

After the delicious bath that took me back to fond memories of India, a clean, non-smelly me worked on the final chapter. I noticed with surprise that it was now noon. I decided to complete this review before making a simple lunch of cheese and homemade bread. The edit and re-write of The Circle Closes took longer than anticipated. As I got up from typing, another great blue heron flew lazily past. Time to relax, for a little while anyway, before the re-write of a section in the Remembering chapter.  This key chapter provides the transition from 18th century Arizona to present day Canada. How can I best sculpt the transition between time frames and the shamanic training that made it possible? Three years later – I had the inspiration to begin the chapter with a description of one of my shamanic journeys. This was the ideal transition vehicle across four centuries. It offered an elegant bridge between time frames.

I had my simple lunch and coffee on the wooden chairs placed on the outside deck. The weather beaten planks tell the story of who has walked here – human, animal and insect life forms. I enjoyed my lunch of cheese, bread with grapes and cherries, even finding a chocolate bar that was sheer heaven. Carolyn had left me with such  delicious supplies and surprises. She knew I was basically a twelve year old at heart! Since she left for Ottawa I realized that I had not moved from the environs of the cottage or the screened in deck where I am writing. The solitude is exquisite. Perhaps magnified by my occupying a zone of concentration to complete a preliminary draft. This is more and more a descriptor of my everyday life. It is not so much the place I occupy but the internal place that occupies me.

With the dishes conveniently piled in the sink, attention is once again on the chapter about Remembering, with further alterations to be made to the opening chapter. After which I did a long and slow series of qi-gong sets. The Remembering chapter is the one I keep coming back to – over and over again. Thunder Beings are announcing their presence – sounding like not so distant drums. Very big drums. I always welcome the Thunder Beings for the pouring rain and lightning they bring. There is acknowledgement with their presence. The rewrites in Chapter Four and Chapter One are  complete, for now anyways. Time for qi-gong, though it has become very hot. Better wear my headband and remove my shirt. Definitely a call for a later swim in the lake.

Indeed, swimming in the lake to the accompaniment of loon calls was delicious. I swam out from the small dock below the rock bluff and then floated on my back looking up at the sky. I saw the dark clouds racing in as the wind picked up. Thunder still ominous in the background. The lightning could surely not be far behind. I swam quickly back to the dock – much faster than the outward journey – and waited for the lightning to strike. Five minutes later it flickered across the horizon, behind the island right across from the cottage. I took a photograph in a pause between lightning flashes and captured six vertical plumes that looked just like feathers. My Muse was checking in, along with the Thunder Beings.

Sacawajea

I noticed it was 9.00 p.m. How did it get to be this time? My tiny computer is getting hot – it needs a rest and so do I.  Thankfully Carolyn had prepared vegetarian lasagna for tonight’s supper, so my culinary skills, which are close to zero, will not be challenged. The threatening weather seems to have passed, leaving behind a haze for the waning sun to poke through as the overcast sky lifts a little. Now that I have stopped working on the manuscript, I realize just how tired I am. This evening is a respite, as I warm up the lasagna. There is still some bean salad left and a very large piece of rhubarb and apple crumble. Perfect. In the far distance the sound of a train can be heard, stretching its long haul across Ontario. The loons must have been alarmed by the lightning strikes. I can still hear their distress cries. It makes for a marvelous symphony as the delicate drops of rain from the trees patter gently on the roof of the deck. Tonight I partake only of this symphony composed by Mother Nature and the train. The remaining work on the book can await morning light. Ha! – the timer has gone on the oven for the lasagna! I look forward to my late supper.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rising early I had such deep appreciation for bird song. There is nothing sweeter than a hedge sparrow’s lilting tones to bring in the new day.  Lying in my bed on the deck I glance at the first light appearing through the cedars, driven by a gentle wind rippling the lake to shore. I listen in to the morning calls of the small birds, the chatter of squirrels and the distant drone of an outboard motor. Then breakfast.  Aaaah – that first sip of good black coffee. Toast, black current jam and cheese, which I miss sharing with Moksha. I decided that after qi-gong – a moving meditation for me – I would clean Joe’s cottage and finish weeding the stone patio. I like to leave my temporary home more beautiful than when I found it. No trace. Slow, abundant qi-gong this morning. The movements are very full as I co-ordinate them with in-breaths and out-breaths.  Feels as though the movements are pregnant. A new vibrancy, perhaps reminding me that this beginning sojourn is settling in. I was tempted to do the qi-gong sets all over again.  I refrained – the dishes in the sink and the bathroom were calling for a thorough clean. I keep hearing the call of an osprey though have yet to see this beautiful creature.

I started the cleaning in the kitchen. Bagging the garbage to transport home. Cleaning out the compost bin, as ants just love to find remnants. Soon the kitchen is sparkling. I moved on to the bathroom to take the shine there. A thorough vacuum and sweeping of bedrooms – even the ones not used. Joe’s cottage began to take on a pleasant hum. A small token of my gratitude for the time here to complete the beginning of this work. The cottage and deck is fair sparkling from the cleanup. A slow moving skunk walked past while I was cleaning the small carpets outside. He stopped, looked at me and dismissed me, before ambling on. I wondered what he was doing out at this time of day, as skunks are mostly nocturnal creatures. I know that when Carolyn arrives later today, the first thing she will do is inspect the bathroom. If I am lucky I may get a passing grade. Looking forward now to that second cup of coffee and a large mango that I will slice up. Weeding is over and done. I think Joe will be astonished at the appearance of the stone patio, released from the grip of weeds and brush. It is cool today with another overcast sky. Just a surface ripple on the lake at present, from a breath of wind. I set up my computer and chair on the glorious screened deck and resume concentration on the manuscript. Complete solitude.

I must applaud the splendid outhouse here, which I much prefer to the toilet in the bathroom. Sturdily built with a comfortable seat, with nobody around the door to the outhouse can be left wide open. What an incredible view while going about one’s business. Resumed work on the book. This piece of writing is an unfinished symphony for me. All my books – including the university texts – are about different facets of consciousness. This book stretches the boundary further and may cast a light of understanding on everything else I have written and done in life.

Completed the refinements necessary for this stage of creation. It was very hot – even on the shaded deck. I placed a mattress on top of the wood box on the deck and rested there for the next few hours, very content with the initial progress made on the manuscript.  I knew I would make further edits on arriving home – with attention to details of formatting, paragraph length and so on, but felt that the first stage of mapping was done.  One step at a time – there is no rush with this piece of work. I estimated that Carolyn would get here around 6:00 p.m. so left sufficient time to clear the cottage of my belongings.  I did this just before she arrived with Moksha.  I was sitting on a rock admiring the shoreline when I heard the unmistakable sound of our Volkswagen’s diesel engine. And there she was with Moksha – both delighted to see me.  On inspecting the cleanup, Carolyn did give me a passing grade on the bathroom. The convection effect of the day’s heat was at work as we drove home through a severe downpour. Removing all trace.

Spring 2012

It was also the removal of “all trace” of me from the manuscript for a while.  I knew this first draft had to sit until it felt just right to return to it. Two years passed by. In the spring of 2012 I returned to the manuscript, which has its own time about when it will be told.  I began to absorb what I had previously written and transmuted it to another level. This is a process I have learned to respect, as this memoir will not be completed on my timetable. Trailing Sky Six Feathers will dance in the daylight when she sees fit. She is The Muse, after all! The 2010 work was simply an initial template that I was laying out. In 2012, I could see a distinct lack of elegance in chapters that were too long. Three of them were easily chopped in half, turning the book of six chapters into nine chapters. Nine feels much better.

Canadian Thanksgiving October 2012

The threads were picked up again in the fall of 2012. An invitation from my generous friend Joe once again made his cottage available to us for Canadian Thanksgiving. The fall was in its later stages of brilliant foliage, as the trees prepared for winter’s embrace. But not before we got to enjoy their startling colors of bright gold, shimmering red and amber. The leaves were breathtaking all the way into the lake. Moksha could hardly wait to get out of the car and gallop all over the terrain, revisiting what she remembered. Carolyn and I unloaded the car while Moksha ran like a swift stream flowing down a mountainside, checking in every so often to see that we were still around. Then she would dash off to seek phantom bunnies and errant squirrels.

Carolyn once more had her travelling Celtic harp. Normally I would be impatient to get the job done, but I know this book has its own rhythm. Nightfall came quickly as we sat on Joe’s new deck. We wrapped up warmly as it was a cold October evening. Watching the sunset take its time until the first loon call ushered us inside. Carolyn’s harp was set up, tuned and played gracefully – hauntingly beautiful – as is Carolyn for me. Her concentration at the harp helped my concentration on two particular chapters.

I expanded the book from six to nine chapters and restructured it into three parts:

Part One: The Muse – with three chapters locked into 18th century Arizona;

Part Two: The Man – four chapters that map the transition to my life in present time, charting my healing, transformation, and radical compass change;

Part Three: The Unity – has two chapters that bring the Muse, me and Consciousness full circle.

The two chapters I focused on intensely were Remembering and Transformation. Carolyn and I discussed them during our car rides for daily lunches. Lunchtime was my turn to prepare food and so I conspired with Carolyn to drive each day to the Fall River Restaurant nearby, where my sous-chefs were waiting! I would read out loud while Carolyn drove and I noted her comments about language and emphasis.

We had both forgotten our watches, so we depended on Carolyn’s iphone for time whenever it felt necessary, which was rare. We actually woke up at 5.00am on the first morning, made a coffee and immediately went back to bed once we recognized how early it was. The rain was steady, drumming on the roof of the cottage with a rhythm of soft percussion. The second coffee with dark chocolate and toast was the prelude to work. Carolyn tuned and played her harp while I turned my attention to the chapter on Transformation. I had to somehow show that all the inner work, suffering and travail had led somewhere. This meant weaving in my 21st century activism for planetary care, peace and social justice and show how it relates to my intensive spiritual journey. These different threads were all of one tapestry. I just had to create the words to weave it together. This is where Carolyn’s clarity was so helpful. She would note where I was getting too academic or preachy and so pages written were reluctantly relegated to feed the fire.

So engrossed did our conversations become that we succeeded in getting totally lost one day on the drive to the nearby restaurant. We saw a lot of surrounding countryside that we had no intention of travelling through, yet enjoyed the sunshine playing with the fall colors on the trees and hedgerows. We continued to discuss the rewritten chapters. Moksha enjoyed many walks, though had to slow down a bit for me. I had torn my right calf muscle quite severely several weeks earlier and was still in recovery. Moksha patiently observed my daily leg exercises but did insist on placing her new frisby at my feet for many a throw.

Both evenings I built up a good fire to keep the cottage warm. The flames and crackle of the logs allowed things to simmer with the chapters I was re-sculpting. No-one else was on the lake at this time of year, yet time flew instead of slowing down. Meditative silence, qi-gong exercises, car rides, plus deep concentration on writing and Celtic harp filled each day. In the evenings Moksha snored on her cushion placed right in front of the fireplace, obviously worn out from her walks and uninhibited freedom.

I released a breath of accomplishment with the final cup of tea late on Saturday evening. Before sleeping I heard the last cascade of Carolyn’s harp. The next morning the sun had come out, but the temperature had dropped radically. We wore all of our clothes in multiple layers to stay warm. After breakfast and cleaning up Joe’s cottage, I paid my honorary visit to the most splendid outhouse in the county. Door wide open with Moksha playing in front, the dazzle of a cold pre-winter day reflected in the lake. We enjoyed the drive to once again applaud our sous-chefs at the Fall River Restaurant before heading home to Ottawa.

Sedona, Arizona, Spring 2013

In the spring of 2013 the lure of a writer’s retreat in Sedona was irresistible. My companion writers arrived as strangers and we left as a tight knit family. Their talent and bravery to bring forward deeply personal issues in their writing impressed me. As did our day together on the land with a gifted guide, culminating in a medicine wheel ceremony that deeply affected every one of us. For me, that ceremony was a confirmation for both my journey and this book. On returning home to Ottawa with my revisions, experiences and copious notes – I did a major overhaul of the entire manuscript. I deleted text, rewrote entire chapters and my writing took on the incisive depth that I had felt was missing. I added a chapter that demonstrated what all the pain, suffering and inner work had led to.

I benefited from my fellow writers who bared their souls in beautifully written and courageous prose. I could do no less. The keen editing eyes of the brilliant facilitators – Lisa Fugard and Julie Colvin – led me to cut prose that I liked, but did not need for the story. In the rewrite I introduced, where necessary, a harsh and somewhat ugly honesty that brought the missing edge to the adventure. Throughout the manuscript the footprint of Trailing Sky Six Feathers dances lightly. Though sometimes she needed heavy wooden clogs on her feet to kick my backside so I would wake up to her presence.

Sedona, Arizona, Fall 2013 – Confirmation

I also attended the fall writers retreat in Sedona to create the final refinements to my book. It was a privilege to share excerpts from the work with gifted writers and facilitators. My personal journey through four centuries of consciousness seemed to strike a chord. That insignia continued once the retreat finished, as Carolyn joined me for a further week to explore the extraordinary terrain of Red Rock Country.  A gifted guide, Clint Frakes, takes us to Cathedral Rock – walking in from Red Rock Crossing. We climbed a vertical cliff to a hidden space where a sacred ceremony was conducted for us in front of two soaring slabs of pictoglyphs – painted and carved. Clint gathered red rock dust from that sacred location and placed it in a container for Carolyn to take home. Lest we forget. We leave hours later – transformed. We are windswept at Rachel’s Point and Mystic – they provide a timeless vista to all Universal directions.  Boynton Canyon with the guardian Kachina Woman brings the goddess energy to us both. Walking the land evoked the latticework of vortex energy, challenging us to be the best we can. Clint takes us through an awesome medicine wheel experience. He had re-built this wheel many years ago and before we left this sacred place he took out a stone, the size of my hand, from the medicine wheel and gave it to us to take home to Canada. Gifts to call us home to the awakened self that has been sleeping.

Rachel's Point 2 (2)

The integral person of my book – Trailing Sky Six Feathers – was everywhere. Nowhere so strong and beautiful as on our final day in Sedona, when Carolyn perused the Kopavi Gallery, just across the road from Tlaquepaque – Sedona’s most exotic market. In the Kopavi Gallery, Carolyn was shown an eagle feather pendant in 18K gold. It was intricately hand carved by John Coochywpten of the Hopi Tobacco Clan, a master goldsmith who blessed each of his pieces with prayer and ceremony before they went to market. The pendant was small, approximately one slim inch long. The foundation was a beautifully crafted eagle feather in gold. John Coochywpten placed a medicine wheel at the top of the feather and rested an eagle head with an all seeing diamond eye upon it. The two diamonds at the bottom of the feather depicted two travelers through time. The pendant had a simmering power to it that Carolyn felt deeply. She gasped with surprise the moment she saw it, as it was a symbolic reflection of the book I was writing and the modern day adventure she and I were exploring. She told me later that she had meditated the night before during which she asked for a sign that confirmed our adventure through four centuries. This pendant spoke of Trailing Sky Six Feathers’ legacy to the two modern day adventurers in a manner beyond speaking. We are forever changed by this gift.

While Carolyn was upstairs in the Kopavi Gallery, I had been sitting outside on a wooden bench, taking in the sky, moving clouds, the sound of Oak Creek with traffic as a background hum. I was inadvertently ready for a sign, which came in a totally hilarious manner. I meditated and after a short internal dialog with Trailing Sky about my next steps, I opened my eyes. I saw a white utility van slowly approaching the round-about right in front of me. Emblazoned in bold, red capital letters on the side panel was the logo “YOU GOTTA DO IT!!” I laughed out loud at that and later wondered how Trailing Sky had managed such perfect timing. I went upstairs to join Carolyn in the Kopavi Gallery. She was telling the manager of the gallery the story of my book and why the Eagle Pendant had spoken so deeply to her. Both women looked at me as I entered the door. I could see how elated Carolyn was, with that secret smile she saves for rare occasions.

She said she had something to show me. And there was the talisman of Trailing Sky Six Feathers and Eagle Speaker in minute detail and provocative power. I looked at it for a long moment. I felt what Carolyn had experienced when she first saw it. She softly asked me if I saw and felt its resonance. There was no hesitation on my part. After all, I had just received the message “YOU GOTTA DO IT!!” Carolyn was seeking a confirmation about the pendant that so symbolized my book and our 21st century adventure. She did not expect me to buy it for her, yet I simply trusted the logo on the white utility van. I told the manager of the gallery the story of how Trailing Sky received her full name.  She got goose bumps all over. I was almost in tears as I spoke the story to her. Afterwards, Carolyn and I walked over to Rene’s – the finest dining place at the exotic Tlaquepaque. This upscale Parisian style café celebrated the two of us.

We were glowing with confirmation.