Archive for May, 2008

The Shaman’s Path – by J. Wolf Hardin

Friday, May 30th, 2008

spiral2sm.jpgThe photo is of an ancient spiral carved into a 10′ high boulder at one end of the Anima Center property, concealed from casual observation by a thick cloak of wild grape vines. It symbolizes the simultaneous journeying outwards into the world and our destinies, and inwards and homewards to our authentic selves, heart and source. Thousands of years old, it marks a place sacred to the ancient Mogollon who so long cared for it, a people served by the vision and skills of certain called and driven Adepts such as we now call shamans. Shamanism is a powerful perceptual and practical tool, available not only to the adepts of primitive cultures but to us as well, with our mission or re-creating our lives and co-creating our reality.

Forget the stereotypes, a shaman is simply one who senses the unseen, inner, spiritual and energetic, and commits to utilizing any insights and lessons to stimulate changes in the visible realm… in the physical and sometimes ailing body, the culture, the environment, and the course of events. These shamanic understandings and techniques can aid not only the dedicated shaman, but also the everyday woman or man seeking a more wholly sensed, engaged, committed and satisfied life.

Regardless of their recognition or stature in their society, shamans cast large shadows. They are the select, individuals who find life so beautiful that it’s almost excruciating, and pain so significant that they have to act to heal and mend the rips. Their intent, and their intensity, can either make them stand out in crowd or help them remain invisible. No matter what their “day jobs,“ their real work is ecstatic, going again and again to the edge where magic happens, and acting as in intermediary between the different ways and ”worlds,” between the spirits and the people. They are agents in one way or another of awakeness, reintegration, healing and transformation.

What most of these shamans from around the world share in common is a world view on which all practices are based, and upon which all results depend. These include the “knowing” that all things are both interconnected and interrelated. That the unseen and the immeasurable can effect physical and visual reality, and that those unseen energies and patterns can in turn be influenced by the efforts of the practitioner. It is these rudimentary understandings that motivates the shaman’s dedication, their contribution to the harmony and balance of the body, mind, spirit, community and land. They may do this through healings, counsel, public speaking, teaching, performance, or assistance with deaths and teen’s rites of passage.

Regardless of their life’s traumas or shifts they’ve gone through, the shaman’s first charge is always to heal (make whole) the fractured selves, and only then can they credibly heal (make whole) other people and the larger community. This does not mean simply the alleviation of natural ailments, but a healing of the soul that can turn any persistent diseases or difficulties it can’t eliminate into spiritual boons and practical learning experiences.

Needless to say, after the reintegration of one’s lost parts, or after any successful healing, the shaman can still help the person or situation return to a state of balance. Nor is the subject’s own involvement over. We still need to commit to a partnership with power, acting on what we see, manifesting our visions, correct our misalignments and imbalances, employ our expanded awareness for the good, using our fears as fuel for positive movement and change, and living our dreams.

While not everyone is meant to be a full-on shaman, shamanic practice can vitalize and deepen anybody willing to authentically do the work. Even for those with other callings, it can serve as an energetic vehicle, assisting passage through the portal of the feeling heart, taking us into deeper connection with the miraculous, inspiring us to take response-ability as conscious co-creators of multi-dimensional reality and our wonderful shared world.

Earth-Path shamanism is a heart-stirring journey into Anima and the reintegrative experience of planetary consciousness. It is the actual moment to moment utilization of any messages and tools revealed during that exploration… and the maximization of our physical and more-than-physical senses, including instinct, intuition, empathy, energetic discernment, clairvoyance and precognition. It is identifying and then being true to our unique, individual, most meaningful purpose… as well as the giving of the whole self in the most powerful, beautiful and effective ways possible, for the benefit of the greater whole.

The hopeful result of shamanic study and practice is: An understanding of the fundamentals of pan-cultural cosmology and earth-informed practice. Conscious interaction with the spirit realm. Heightened skills to effect the world. Furthered ability to heal and bring to balance both individuals and the society of which we are a part. New means for improving relationships with coworkers, allies, friends and spouses. More intuitive presence in personal business, that can lead to better decision-making and a deeper measure of mission success.

Earth-Path shamanism offers a means for re-creating primal/primary ritual, ceremony, practice, tradition and tribe true to our usually mixed blood ancestry and these contemporary times. Enlisted to reconnect rather than disembark or transcend, such shamanism may be even more important now than in our tribal and prehistoric past. At its most vital best, it can lead to the recognition and affirmation of our latent, pre-existing shamanic abilities, propensities and potentials. And to the development of personal criteria for its honorable application… in these times of personal and global transformation, unequaled struggle and unparalleled reward.

We awaken to the shaman now, under virtually the same stars as the ancestors, penetrating the same darkness with the same insistent light.

-J.W.H.

To register for the Anima Shaman Path Intensive held in N.M. the July 4th weekend, click on: shamans-path-intensive-reg.doc

For information on the Shaman Path Correspondence course, please go to: www.animacenter.org

The Enchanted Cook – by J. Wolf Hardin

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

(Introduction: The following is the first in a series of short pieces that teach about nourishing ourselves, noticing our world and taking responsibility for magic… as told through the story of Loba and her kitchen of healing and possibility. Each is due to appear in Loba’s cookbook “The Enchanted Pantry,” expected to be ready for publication and sale by the Winter of ’08/’09.)

lobacampfiresoup1-72dpism.jpg“No mean person can cook well, for it calls for a light head, a generous spirit, and a large heart.” -Paul Gauguin

Like the fabled unicorn or other mythical creature, an Enchanted Cook deserves an accurate depiction. And as with any legend, Loba’s story deserves a proper telling.

There’s no one like her, and we can understand that you might not know how to take it when we tell you it’s as if she had been born out of a pairing between Aunt Jemima and the Frog Prince. Between Pa in “Little House on The Prairie” and “I Love Lucy.” Between Thumbelina and the Absent Minded Professor, Tarzan’s Jane and the genie in Aladdin’s magic lamp, Mowgli of “The Jungle Book” and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. She’s absolute sincerity in the form of a floating wood nymph, a gift from the Spirit presented to an unsuspecting mortal for the purpose of instilling humility and inspiring grace.

She may not have known how to heat up or stir anything but hearts when she got here, but she quickly developed a personal intimacy with food like we’d never seen. I try to imagine somebody else putting that much love and energy into their meals, dressing up in something special before they start to cook. Talking to their asparagus as if they’d gone to the same school together. Singing to cheer up some slightly sagging lettuce, keeping a beat with the strokes of her garlic knife. Massaging that fish so good that it thinks it’s still alive. Each sampling bite a kiss of approval. Praying for success, while being thankful for whatever comes. Perhaps a flower bedecked matron from the cooking clubs of Guadalupe or Martinique tends her meals as well. Perhaps a child making a simple treehouse lunch into an affair of import. And surely a man shipwrecked on some barren desert isle, preparing a meal with the very last of his food, would by that point have learned what it means to make it last…. to tend its precious ingredients, its artful preparation, its nuances, tastes, textures and smells. Surely he’d know by then to give each moment, each and every meal its proper due.

For Loba, that can mean “giving proper due” three, four or more times a day.

“I exercise so I can eat more,” she unabashedly explains.

I guess if you’re going to be an Enchanted Cook, a purveyor of magic and baker of bliss, it helps to be crazy about eating! Our food notices the difference, and responds accordingly. Loba’s foodstuffs are highly honored to be a party to her ministrations. There’s much competition among the fresh greens as they vie for her touch. The spices in their jars are comforted just to hear her voice. Every element summoned to be part of the dramatic play has confidence in the part they’re assigned. They know full well that no ingredient will be allowed to upstage the rest, and that all will be encouraged to shine in their individual as well as collective glory. Each will be essential to the script, be credited by name, and be remembered for years to come. Encore!

Word has it, it may not always have been so…. that there could have been a time in Loba’s life when food was lusted for without commitment, with some actually prepared and served by strangers! And that there was possibly a brief interlude where Loba’s political correctness revolted against the visage of a slavish Betty Crocker tied by apron strings to the hot stove of male domination. But without prodding from anyone, no more than a couple of weeks went by before the kitchen had won her heart. It was as if the kitchen, like Cinderella’s glass slipper, was made to fit. As if the silver spoons with Celtic Knots were wrought special for Loba’s pretty fingers, the plant dangling in the window blooming forth in brilliant reds especially for her, a “toy chest” of colored bowls and saucers inviting her to play, play, play until everyone’s fed…. and the promise of flour, drawing her forth with visions of fresh baked bread.

Whether cooking in her special little kitchen or outdoors over a campfire, she is nothing less than a priestess of sustenance, a food genius, an impresaria of dancing treats, a purveyor of health and wholesomeness. She’s an anointed alchemist transmuting the elements, enjoined to a more rewarding task than merely turning lead into gold. Here lies the real treasure, finding personal empowerment and reconnection to the All through the medium of food. Superior to any mood altering drug, Loba’s recipes should be prescribed for depression. Better than any known therapy, Social Security should pay her to serve her meals, her advice, her example. If culinary schools gave out honorary degrees for life experience, every single college should award her one. Her concoctions entice, console, nourish and cheer. Each complete serving is a mom’s heartbeat, a grandparent’s lap, a cat or dog sleeping on your foot, the gentle winds that ease you off to sleep and the splash of cool creek water that awakens. And believe me, if the experience of eating could be but a blanket, Loba’s feasts would withstand the coldest Winters of the human soul. Her message offers us a kind of salvation, potentially saving us from oblivious consumption, and the terrible tragedy of food unsavored, or of dying without having fully lived.

When her own time comes to pass on, we pray that the afterlife will honor this Enchanted Cook by appearing as much as possible like the canyon home she adores. We pray that she be welcomed the night she arrives there, pigeon-toed as always…. carrying love in the immensity of her heart, a tray-full of dinner in her soft and skilled hands.

Smelling Our Way Home

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

kitchengarden1sm.jpgAfter a day of 60mph winds, the canyon was blessed by a drenching of rain. May and June are usually extremely dry months, and this both eased the fire danger and watered the early Summer sprouts. One thing I am sure everyone notices about rain is the smell, or more accurately, the way it enhances and magnifies the existing odors of fertile soil and aromatic leaf. Smell is certainly one of the major ways in which we engage, discern and delight in not only our food but our lovers and landscapes. We could close out eyes this time of year, and like a walrus mother nosing her way to her offspring through a massive crowd of identical walrus babies, find our way around the canyon by its signature scents. To make our way up the dry wash, we can expect to move towards the bright notes of honeysuckle, down through the thick sweet waves from the arbors of wild grape, on to the call of beckoning bee balm reminiscent of oregano wafting from a steaming Italian dish. To get back to the house, we seek these markers in reverse, until we arrive at the rosemary and arugala of Loba’s tiny kitchen garden (pictured here). This is the world that Loba knows best, finding her path through life not by intellectual discernment so much as by smelling and sampling, giving each moment the taste test… and our coming back to this way of knowing has proven yet another means of our coming home.

Regards,

Wolf

Anima Definitions: Freedom – by J. Wolf Hardin

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

The Real Meaning Of Freedom By Jesse Wolf Hardin

illusions4-sm.jpgI watch as our partner Kiva counsels a group of women in our canyon, here to learn about medicinal herbs and the work of the Medicine Woman.  She is strong, not only in spite of her hard childhood and abusive father, the time living on the streets or making do out in the wilderness, but in part because of these things.  Looking at her body language, hand movements and expressions, we can see that she is wild and ungoverned, though highly purposeful and self-disciplined.  There is a certain deliberateness to her every word and motion, no matter how quick their presentation, as if she sought well considered results with each effort.  Heeding no master, she is as much as anyone and anything else an embodiment of freedom.

With language being so powerful, and so often muddied or misused, a big part of the work of Anima has been to redefine or reclaim the original meaning of various terms and words.  In an election year, and close to the 4th of July, freedom is likely something we are thinking about more than usual… yet often without fully understanding what it means.  It can easily seem confusing, aggravatingly contradictory or hopelessly subjective.  In the ongoing Iraq War, we witness one country invading another with the espoused goal of freeing its people even as the local residents rise to battle the invaders, certain they are not just dying for Allah but also fighting to be free.  Back in the States, certain spiritual traditions and New Age trends espouse a goal of transcendence, described as being free of the body and all bodily desire, when in actuality the body serves as a vessel for the expression of freedom in very real ways.  These and innumerable other examples highlight how essential it is that we come to comprehend what this freedom that we cherish enough to live, perish and pray for truly entails.

Let’s delve a little deeper.  There is no doubt that, in the name of increased security, modern legislation including the controversial Patriot Act drastically have greatly impinged on historic personal liberties and the once inviolable rights of the American citizen.  Such grievous and hopefully intolerable reductions in liberty are not, however, the same as the elimination of freedom.  One has only to think of the many activists over the course of the preceding two and half centuries who have written about how much freer they felt in jail – acting on their conscience and doing what they believe – than when they had earlier felt disempowered by unjust laws, controlled through threat, restrained by self doubt and imprisoned by their fears.

We’re endowed with free will, which is the freedom to choose and act according to our needs, principles and purpose, to weigh the consequences and consider the possible as well as intended results and ramifications.  In reality, even the most oppressed of us are free to speak up, even if we will freely pay the price for doing so.  We’re free to do what’s right, and to give ourselves credit for it whether others do or not.  We’re free to try and thereby risk the effects of success as well as the price of failure, free to be wrong and thus free to learn from our mistakes.  No matter who we are or what our situation, we can do the work to free ourselves from our own unhealthy intolerance, envy and greed.  We are free to change who we are partnered with, if it proves not to serve the spirits and purpose of both mates.  We’re free to move to another part of town if it will make us feel more at home and in place, or to transplant ourselves to an entirely different bioregion if we feel so called.  We can pull free of bad jobs, at the risk of reduced incomes, and get free of debt with sufficient effort.  Free to vote even if we don’t always like the options, and free to protest what deserves protesting regardless of the inconvenience or fines that could result from our efforts.

On the other hand, we can never be free from all fear, although we can learn to use it to alert us to what needs our attention, and as fuel for an important remedy or timely retreat.  We can’t be free of the effects of history even if we are ignorant of its truths, nor get free of the past even though we can refuse to let it define us or hold us back.  We can never be free of consequence, free from the work of relationships or the messy intimacy of life, free of the need to eat to live nor of the fact of our one day dying.  Free of our connection to the rest of the living earth, even when flying high above it.  Free of unused potential, anxious for use.  Or of love when it claims us.

In many of these cases, it may be unwise seeking freedom from things so much as interdependent and conscious engagement with them, dealing with what we need to, learning from what we are able, willingly and actively co-creating our amazing world, making real and manifest what we can.  And those things that we should free ourselves from – both within us and outside of us, and for both our sake and the sake of others – mandate not our acquiescence, but our full-on efforts to resist, to heal, or to somehow help bring about change.

When aspiring to a freer lifestyle, I once looked to the example of ancient wandering mystics, the mountain men of the early 1800’s, ‘60s bohemian hippies and the Kerouac beats of the 1950s, whom I saw as mostly unrestrained not only by circumstance, convention and law, but also by the complex responsibilities of adulthood.  Over the ensuing decades, however, I have come to redefine responsibility not as obligation but as the ability-to-respond… and true freedom as the freedom of heartful response.  As such, it is not something we escape to, but what we rightfully claim, seize, and then courageously utilize.

I turn again from the river, in time to see Kiva bidding farewell to her visiting students.  It shows in their faces, anxious with uncertainty, but flushed with newfound power.  Even those who might have come in the hope of reassurance and comfort, had clearly been handed the responsibility for their own health and growth instead.  “I’m off to help others be as scarily, beautifully and meaningfully free,” I heard one woman tell her, “as me.”

The Flower Festival – Living With the Seasons

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

 

rhiannon-feast.jpgWhile most people celebrate Spring as designated by the equinox, we have a habit of basing our festivities around locally occurring events. For example, we have fire season during the dry part of the year when a forest fires run through the Southwest, and monsoon season when the midsummer rains arrive to annually revive the deserts. For the last few years, we have celebrated the return of the growing season when the Yuccas bloom. They are by no means the first flower to open in the Spring, but they are an accurate marker of the full greening of the canyon. They’re also tasty and a prime source of food and medicine, making them an important plant to honor during the year.

We gather baskets and bowls full of Yucca flowers and bring them back to the cabin. Some are immediately transformed into an integral part of the spring feast and some are strung on a cotton thread, to be hung for decoration and drying from the rafters. Next we prepare a sumptuous and colorful meal, full of the vitality and growth of spring and completed by the addition of delicious lacto-fermented Yarrow ale that we began brewing about a moon ago.

Our festival is simple, made up mostly of feasting and a little dancing, along with ample time to observe and appreciate the beautiful green emerging from every crevice and cranny. We toast the animals and the plants and the canyon with raised glasses, and settle in to watch the sun turn golden and purple as it slips over the canyon wall.

For Rhiannon, these small celebrations and annual observances, are especially vital. They provide her both with a sense of cyclical continuity and reinforce the importance of experiencing the intense present moment. They give her roots and context, a place to grow from and memories to treasure. The world seen through local seasons, through the always turning wheel, is one of ongoing delights and ever deepening intimacy with the earth, each other and ourselves. Happy Flower Festival to you all!

Love,
Kiva

~~~~~~~

festival-food.jpg

ReEnvisioning The Medicine Wheel -by J. Wolf Hardin

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

oldjawbone1sm.jpgIntroduction: Kiva and I have been working hard on advancing the Anima Medicine Wheel concept to correlate with our understanding of energetics and constitutions, and emotional and body types, so that it can function as a working model for personal healing as well as one’s other growth towards wholeness. The stones representing the center are now identified as the fifth direction/element/power, though one that helps fuel and spin the rest. Before, there was a single center stone representing essential self and the completion of the personal journey of incorporation, and we taught that when whole we all speak from this center. That is still true in one sense, but it is even more useful to image us speaking from our wholeness and totality, something which is symbolized not just by the center but by the entire motive circle. The abbreviated essay reflects these changes, and the 5,000 word long version in the Shaman and Path Of Heart courses will be amended and expanded accordingly (write us if you’d like a copy). And as I write this, Kiva is busy working on a chapter for the Medicine Woman Herbal book that tells the story of the Anima Wheel from the perspective of a practicing Anima healer.

 

The Anima Medicine Wheel:
Charting Our Challenges & Advantages
By Jesse Wolf Hardin

It is best to walk up on one in either the early hours of morning or in the last rays of the sun as the shadows sharply delineate the their circles of stones. Dating back to pre-Columbian times, Medicine Wheels are a world wide phenomena as well as helpful tools for these modern times. With their markers oriented to the cardinal directions, they’re reputed to have served the various indigenous cultures as a type of compass, astrological map and calendar of the passing seasons… but from surviving tribal folklore, we know that these still poignant wheels of life are meant to chart much, much more.
From first breath until last, all human experience is cyclic, and every transition along the way can be plotted on this predictable spherical model. Every human and natural event could be plotted on its circular course, affixed to its bed of stone first by observation and then by personal memory, tradition and story: The years of drought and food, increase and plenty. The first migration to this spot, the gathering and placing into a circle of these very rocks, and any annual or final migrations away. Days of strife, and months of peace. Events that effected entire populations, and those most significant to the individual such as births, the onset of moon-time (menses), rites of passage and the promises of marriage, and the assuming of honors and responsibilities. On the wheel it is possible to chart both one’s personal health ecology, but also an entire system of constitutional healing and Western energetics such as that of the Anima Medicine Woman Tradition. My partner Kiva begins every healing consultation by determining her clients’ place of origin on the Wheel, and hence their basic constitutions, advantages and challenges before helping move them in the direction of their healing and wholeness.
It is widely recognized that celestial bodies are formative influences on character, evidenced by the remarkable percentage of the time that people demonstrate similar traits when born under the same astrological sign. And of all those heavenly bodies influencing human kind, none more significant than the planet we live on and within. A Medicine Wheel is a usable map of the major terrestrial forces influencing us from the moment of conception, much as an astrological map positions and describes the celestial forces at play. The result of astrological influences is a propensity, an innate inclination to perceive in certain ways and to respond predictably to similar situations. And all the more so, the effects of planet Earth and the inspiriting Anima, and those five distinctive sets of characteristics, advantages and struggles that we can assign to each of the directions.
Terrestrial influences, just as any predisposition, can be overridden by the rational mind, or constrained by fear, custom or law, but such inclinations remain an integral factor in the person’s make-up. Submerged and sublimated, they will periodically push their way up through the conscious surface as unquenched animal desires, inexplicable tendencies, arresting visions and relentless dreams. On the other hand, conscious recognition of our place on the Wheel at any given time, enables us to make empowered choices grounded in self knowledge, with foresight regarding what is yet to come or be done. We can clearly see if we are on the path, fulfilling our own most meaningful purpose, once we can look back and see where we started from, and forward to where we are headed. This is possible because we all appear to walk the Medicine Wheel of our lives sun-wise (or clockwise), creating a graph of our course. And in the end, each individual’s path is clearly a loop, leading us not just out into the world but also further into our selves… leading us full circle, to wholeness and to home.
To create your own working model, you need an appropriate place and materials. One could conceivably construct a personal Wheel out of gravel – or thumbtacks, or pieces of candy – arrayed on a kitchen table. But there is a special power that comes with hand selecting natural rocks for their size, appearance, and the feelings they bring up… and for building that Wheel in a nearby favorite wild place or even in an overgrown section of one’s household yard.
Begin with a minimum of 4 large and 28 smaller stones. These should ideally be from close to the site of your array, but could also have been gathered from the many different places you have travelled to. Be conscious of their singularity. All vibrate a little differently, each buzzing with their own individual songs, minerals that seem somehow alive though in no hurry at all. Sit with them for awhile and feel the weight of their presence.
Next, prepare a smooth round area with your bare hands, perhaps 2 to 3 feet in diameter, and focus on the center. Starting with the East, place one of the large stones to mark its position on the rim of the Wheel. Carefully place each of the other three large stones to the South, West and North, then space two smaller ones between each of these cardinal points. A total of twelve stones should now make up the outer rim. Place another 8 in a smaller circle at the Center, marking the 5th direction: root, earth and axle. Finally, connect this inner hub to the stones representing the 4 directions with 2 or more stones, making the East/West and North/South lines.
At birth you enter the Wheel from a particular orientation, your original direction. We could call this influence/power a “freebie,” in that it’s a gift of talents and tendencies that you didn’t have to work for or grow into, of beneficial challenges as well as outright advantages. They helped to influence your inclinations and propensities, responses and actions from the time you left the womb until at least that first big change in how you “lived” the world. Even once you have moved on around the Wheel, you may remain most affected by this one founding direction. As I describe the powers/characteristics, you may immediately recognize your original direction, resounding, incontestable. If not, you will need to spend longer facing and feeling each of them.
The East is the place of awakening, a brilliance that brings tears to your eyes, the advantage of distance and the power to see far. It is the element of Air, offering a clarity free of emotional subjectivity, unclouded by either hatred or compassion. Those born under the influence of the East are extremely perceptive, able from a young age to withdraw from conversations and analyze them from the unaffected outside. It can hurt to see so much, so well. But oh, how stunning the view!
The South is home to the element Fire. Folks beginning there are afforded immediate immersion in the sensuality and physicality of experiential reality, their knowledge a product personal experience, intimacy or trust obtained through risky exposure. While they want to focus on the positive in everything, they may also find it hard to step back and access a situation apart from their personal, bodily, emotive involvement. The rewards are those increased sensations that come with physical closeness, an inordinate sense of place and belonging.
Those of the West dwell much of the time in unseen inner sanctums. It is home to the power of seeing within. From infancy on those of the West know who they are beyond refute. This can easily lead to arrogance on their part, since they seek affirmation from only an esteemed few, and consensus from none. The reward is great, however, their making all decisions based on their real selves, dreams and needs.
The North represents wisdom – or more accurately, the ability to incorporate, the power of inclusion and integration, the power of seeing connections. True wisdom results from the reconciliation of seemingly divergent interests and perspectives. The power of the North is integrative, and unperturbed.
The Center is the power of motion, growth and proliferation. It fuels the powers of each of the four cardinal directions, and helps move us around the circle that is our being and our lives. It is analogous to the tree of life – or more accurately – to the vital sap that runs from earth and root up into every stem and branch of our existence and our manifestating.
You can confirm your original direction by referencing it against the direction that precedes it on the Wheel, which should clearly appear as the final and most difficult direction/ perception you’ll be integrating into your life. For those starting in the South, for example, the objectivity and discernment of the East would prove most formidable. While the Center effects and propels all four of the cardinal directions, anyone originating in the Center still must enter the larger circle at a specific point. While I was born defined by the constitutional energies of movement and growth, I rose up through the portal of the West, and incorporating the powers and lessons of the South has indeed posed the greatest difficulty.
From day one we have the option to work on incorporating aspects of the remaining directions simultaneously, but each is only fully integrated in cyclic order, in turn, in sun-wise rotation around the Wheel. Someone of the North might consciously and determinedly work to learn the lessons of the South, but they will be unable to fully complete the task until they’ve first integrated those changes ushered in by the East.

“We formed the circle, we danced, we spoke the truth, we dared to live it.”
—Starhawk

The Wheel invokes already existent forces and helps reveal our more-than-human potential, in alignment with our inner and greater Anima. Our quest around the Wheel is a process of self exploration, embodiment, utilization and fulfillment. With the incorporation and embodiment of each direction we access its omnipresent powers. It’s a process not unlike finding cards missing from the deck, cards that you had with you all along. Then with the integration of our final direction every tool is made available, we can actualize the full range of terrestrial influence and potential… consciously connected to all things, and able to see all ways at once.

The Walk In: Want To, Focus & Follow-Through

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

cliffs1sm.jpgThe mile and a half walk into the Center from the parking area is an opportunity we recommend to everyone who comes, unless they have a physical handicap. We say “opportunity” because it is a chance for them to begin the process of unwinding from the drive, to allow the cool feel of the river water on hot bared feet and the first stunning view of the riverside cliffs wash away the mind’s normally constant commentary. While our work, thoughts and modes of entertainment can take us away to almost anywhere but “here,” the canyon walk leads in another direction – towards the heightened presence that best comes from grounding in one’s sensate body and the palpable reality of place. Guests first cross a dry, heavily grazed section, than proceed through a gate marking the start of National Forest. This time of year, claret cup cactus greet them with brilliant red blooms, including one that grows out of a crack in the side of a rock at the third river crossing, and the wild grape vines I spread so many years ago are resplendent in new lime green leaves. The soil is dry and dust blows in clouds kicked up by the heated winds, yet the canyon plant life is able to draw up the moisture they need thanks to close proximity to the year-round flow of water. Nettles flex and bluster beneath sheltering juniper and pine canopies, as many of the area’s animals deliver or prepare to deliver their young. Migrating ducks newly arrived from who-knows-where, fuss and quack near hidden nests of eggs, and the oh so sweet mourning doves pair up and cuddle on swaying cottonwood limbs. I get great pleasure out of seeing the looks on the faces of those guests who are most able to rein in their spinning impulses and begin the process of greatly noticing and deeply feeling, a regular reminder of the value of sharing this place, its rewarding beauty and arresting lessons.

illusions1-sm.jpgAt the same time, it seems important to require some kind of qualification, to protect the energy and intent of the Center, and to help ensure the focus of those coming to be, learn, work and grow. The canyon itself provides tests and challenges from stickery cholla to unexpected shifts in the weather and the inevitable dredging up of every repressed contradiction, quandary or fear, and we have contributed to the natural filtering process by designing our programs around focused studenting, and increasing related expectations. We’re continuing that trend, by offering student internships from now on, rather than general internships that were basically work-trades for time in the canyon with no requirement to be learning, utilizing or shifting. Student Internships will include defined curricula as well as helpful chores, and Retreats will now be the only venue for guests to soak up the benefits of the canyon without a commitment to study and apply what they learn. Details will follow as Kiva and I work out the parameters, but it will likely involve 3 to 6 simultaneous resident Students for blocks of 2 to 6 weeks, with an emphasis on the Medicine Woman Tradition.

When it comes to filtering according to folks’ degree of intention, the hilarious scene from The Fight Club movie comes to mind – where applicants were told again and again that they weren’t welcome, and where those who eventually qualified did so because they were insistent and refused to be either discouraged or turned away. Any trials we or the canyon provide are perhaps gentle in comparison, though our friend and supporter Silver may not have thought so the other morning. I was driving the Jeep out to pick up supplies she was donating, when I spotted her sliding big boxes under the tightly strung barbed wire fence. She then crawled under it herself, picked up a box and started walking towards the Center with it. What she didn’t realize was that the cowboys had moved the gate twenty yards to the West.

I laughed hearing that she never wondered why there seemed to be no gate anymore, and in fact thought it was a good idea that we had eliminated it. It would stop anyone from trying to drive in, she said, as well as test any guest’s determination. Some would be discouraged and get back in their cars, she explained, and we should be able to better count on the enthusiasm and commitment of those who have climbed over or under every obstacle in the way of their getting here and doing what they came to do.

That’s the magic qualifications: want to, focus and follow-through. She paused to sniff the sweet air as I pointed to the still easily opened gate, and drove the little Jeep through.

Live deep,

-J. Wolf Hardin

A Medicine Woman’s Haven: Down by the River

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

evening-primrose-river.jpg

Here in the SW, spring is well underway. The daytime’s are windy, hot and dry and the nights cool and illuminated by frogsong and poor-wills. I welcome the warmth after a cold, long winter and revel in the multitude of flowers bursting into bloom. Even as the ground dries and cracks under the brilliant sun, the honeysuckle grow fat cream-colored buds and the buffalo gourd spread rapidly across the rocky hillsides and mesas. There’s something miracle like to the growing seasons here in New Mexico, how even in the hottest, driest weather the plants are still flourishing and reproducing, the birds singing in profusion and the baby animals learning their ancestral trade of awareness, playfulness and survival.

In the heat of the day, I avoid sunburn and thirst by heading down the steep rocks to the welcoming river. In the shade of just leafed out willows, the sand is cool and the water sweeps by my bare, dusty feet with a song and a kiss for my splashing toes. Underneath the curving trees, the colors seem richer and the sounds softer as the ravens circle overhead and small animals run through the brush. On the banks, the first climbing tendrils of wild snapdragon vines and canyon grapes are winding their way around olive trees and juniper trunks. I lay back and feel the hum of the earth underneath my body, delighting in the small breeze that weaves through the trees to touch my face.

During the summer, the river provides animals, plants and humans alike an oasis, a faeryland of dappled shade and dragonflies. Each day, the various canyon inhabitants can be seen scurrying up and down the rocks, heading to the river for nourishment and rest, to float in the water’s sweet embrace or to crouch in the company of vines and songbirds. The river is a reward and a haven, a place for celebration and quiet retreat. It is the lifeblood of the canyon, and we cherish the vital flow that has shaped both the smooth stones and the many open hearts of students and seekers. The teachings of Anima and the tools of the Medicine Woman Tradition have their roots in this precious water, and have been fed and formed by the floods and eddies of the current that carries each of us deeper and closer to our truest, rawest selves.

Of Art & Words -by J. Wolf Hardin

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

I have always loved writing, the evocation of thought and feeling, the telling of a story that reveals in the reader deeper layers of their selves. Most often the words pour out as if from a hidden reservoir, no doubt birthed and developed in the kitchen of the unconscious, and yet springing forth afresh. The insights ring so true that they reverberate through my entire being, and I feel at best like a resonator through which all the experiences of humanity and the rest of the feeling planet vibrate as sound then word and form. Most often there is little crafting per se, as the material makes its way onto screen and paper in approximately the order it comes out, a steady stream that I have only to type fast enough to record before its gone. Unlike music, it is hard for a reader to act as if it were only entertainment, background noise or soundtrack instead of a clarion call. And while artwork is open to wide interpretation, the intent and meaning of an essay is more likely to survive translation and absorption intact.

medicine-womans-botanicaca-color-sm.jpgThat said, I find there’s something special about drawing and painting, and even the most lengthy or difficult assignment feels like both relaxation and reward. The process ushers me into a wordless state of mind, as surely as submersion in cool river water. The therapeutic sweep of the pencil or brush has a zen like quality, a timeless dance where I am drawn to linger. As many projects as I always have going, I treat each order for custom artwork as a chance for a break, illustrating good folks’ alternative business logos or doing portraits to repay the gifts of friends. Never has the pleasure been greater than when creating the several Medicine Woman archetypes for the Medicine Woman Herbal book, not only because of how much Kiva appreciates the contributions, but because of the inspiring and empowered types of women these works define. While archetypes, they are grounded in mixed lineage and these modern times, from the overall clad Appalachian herb gardener to the part-black drummer and keeper of ritual.

Here you see my latest, entitled “The Medicine Woman’s Botanica,” the enticing and mystery laden shop of a Hispanic “yerbera” or “curandara”, located somewhere in the dusty and twisting back streets of one of our historic New Mexico towns. She sits on a hand carved oak chair with twisting vine motif and its back topped with claw-held crystal balls (inspired by the clawfoot legs found on some antique tables). Her low cut shirt speaks to her being a woman of the modern age, confident of her sexuality, a woman who likely spent time riding her own motorcycle when she was young and wilder, but who now adds a hand beaded leather vest to her outfit to honor indigenous traditions. Above her you may recognize bunches of chamomile, thistle and rosemary, being slow dried to protect their strength and efficacy. On the counter in front of her are the tools and materials of her healing trade, including bottled tinctures, medicinal roots and mushrooms, calendula and chilies, a mortar for grinding up small quantities of dried materials, and a vintage brass and marble scale to weigh the powders thus ground.

This piece – like the others – is mixed media, combining colored pencils, watercolor pencils, and an overlay pen and ink that help stylize, bring forward and set into motion the intersecting forms. I had to stay up until 1 in the morning to meet a magazine deadline, after spending most of the day completing the Doña and her shop of natural healing… putting my writing second once again, to the sensibility, sensuality and satisfaction of art.

(Note From Kiva: Contact us for info on purchasing the limited edition Medicine Woman series or other images, or to request a logo or portrait for yourself)