Archive for November, 2009

Of the Earth: Original Speech and the Senses

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Of the Earth: Original Speech and the Senses

by Kiva Rose Hardin

4oclock 3“Our senses are meant to perceive the world. They developed with and from the world, not in isolation. Using them is the act that opens the door that is in Nature.”
-Stephen Buhner

“All we have to believe with is our senses, the tools we use to perceive the world: our sight, our touch, our memory. If they lie to us, then nothing can be trusted. And even if we do not believe, then still we cannot travel in any other way than the road our senses show us; and we must walk that road to the end.”
-Neil Gaiman

Rhiannon-PinkOriginal speech was never words. The language of primal being and the living earth speaks in a soft brush of fur against our bare skin, flows on wild melodies for our ears to hear, blossoms into a rich sweetness on our tongues, fades into a thousand shades of green in the forest canopy, envelopes us in the heady musk of an orchid. Words are shorthand, symbols for the real world. – Don’t mistake me, words have beauty and power, but only so far as they evoke the sensory web in which we live. Abstractions, concepts without root in the flesh and blood of earthly existence are but stillborn shadows of the inspirited organism that is our planet. The healer cannot afford to play pretend with big words and heady ideas, our work is in the achingly physical planes of skin, root, bone, leaf, heart, petiole, uterus, stamen, belly. This is our territory, our haven, our speech and most of all, our home.

LobaStove2Feb1As humans, we are intended to reside in our bodies and in our connections to the land, each other, the all. Our senses are not meant to be just half of the equation, with the other half cerebral hyperbole and mental loops. Our senses and our honed awareness of them are the entirety of being. Indeed, if we do not live wholly in our bodies, we do not wholly live. Our minds exist, not outside of the senses, but as a processing center for sensation, so that we might further refine and hone our awareness, our capacity to feel and our ability to respond to those feelings.


Our ancestors, as indigenous peoples of planet earth and full participants in the natural world, knew well how to listen to the land. They heard and understood the language of river, otter, rock, dragonfly and flower. In the age of industrial civilization we speak of these people and those days as if they were long gone. As if, in fact, it all might have been a myth, a fanciful fairy story to begin with. After all, old women do love to embellish stories by the fire, and men are well known for their exaggerated tales, so perhaps life has always been this burdensome and boring and we humans have always been this cut off from the magic and mystery. Perhaps we never did speak to plants, and we really are as crazy as our neighbors (who catch us whispering compliments to Dandelions) suppose we are. This insistent and insidious whisper of doubt stems from our fear and our imagined separation from the natural world, including ourselves. And despite the many stories to the contrary, it is not magic and the realm of Faery that have faded from our world, but we humans who have closed ourselves into the vast corridors of our minds and turned our backs on the innate enchantment to which we are each born.


3 Steps to ReLearning Original Language

1. Surrender to the Senses
The first step is to forget words, and the best and most natural way to do this is to give ourselves over to our senses. Step away from your computer, wander out of the house into the forest or garden or into your lover’s arms. Immerse yourself in the experience as if it was the first time you’d ever smelled dew-wet grass at dawn, or kissed the inside of your husband’s wrist, where the pulse pounds beneath your lips. Give yourself up to it as if it were the final time. As if this whisper of indian summer wind lilting through the elms that line your road is the last sound you’ll ever hear.

Now, start with five minutes each day, spend that entire time without words in your head. But don’t space out or float away from your body, stay firmly rooted in the here and now, ground yourself in your senses. If you can’t manage it any other way, choose five minutes of eating. Eat very slowly, don’t analyze the food. Notice it, savor it, and if it’s not worth savoring, get something else to eat. Give yourself over to instinctual experience of touch, taste, scent, sound and sight.

Integrate this into your daily life, even when it’s painful or unpleasant. If you burn your finger on the stove or your toes are cramped by your too small shoes, pay attention and respond rather than blocking or numbing it. Feel it, explore it, live inside it until you recognize the feeling’s fingerprint upon your senses.

If this is hard, persist. If it’s easy, delight in it. Don’t trivialize or rush the process. Don’t imagine for a moment you already know how to do this, no matter your age, your experience, your education. This is important, this is the primary way in which the natural world speaks to us, and it is the only way in which to learn the most vital aspects of a healer’s practice.

Don’t worry about translating every sensation into meaning, that comes later, and will only inhibit the process at this point. For now, simply cultivate a mammalian awareness and child-like presence. Notice. Embrace. Savor.

2. Inhabit your body.

One might think that surrendering to sensation would be identical to inhabiting the body, but I have seen and experienced the phenomenon of entering the body or immersing the self in sensation just long enough to experience incredible pleasure or crushing pain, but otherwise habitually abandoning the body to its automatic processes with little notice on our part.

To inhabit the body is to consciously and completely attend to breath, play, pain, dream, bliss. It is to stretch and wriggle into every crevice and corridor, filling our skin with our selves. It is to finally realize that our skin IS our selves. We are not merely souls trapped in flesh, but rather animated, inspirited matter in the form dancing, crying, loving humans.

Many of us may wish our bodies were younger, more toned, smaller, lithe or less scarred – and yet, our bodies are both home and, hopefully, an expression of our own character, a lined map of the lives we have lived. The more fully we inhabit our bodies, the more our bodies will reflect our authentic selves, from the sparkle of the eye to the gesture of eager hands to the balance and confidence with which we move. There is no other body for our beings, just as there is no other planet for our people. We are here and nowhere else. The journey to loving and valuing our body, perceived flaws and all, may be long and arduous indeed, but we begin with accepting that it is who we are and by inhabiting it as completely as is possible.

Consciousness resides in the entirety of the body. Practice centering your awareness somewhere besides you head. Let your index finger or left calf or your belly become the primary conduit for consciousness for a little while. Every day, send you awareness to different parts of your body and allow them to wake up, to feel and sense fully. When you’ve learned to expand yourself into all parts of your body, try holding your consciousness within the whole body at the same time. Understand that the idea that your awareness is only in your head is culturally indoctrinated lie, because in fact, we humans and all animals, lived inside the entirety of our bodies not just one extremity.

3. Engage the Present

Once we’re finally at home in our bodies, we often find ourselves living more intensely from moment to moment, deeply aware of the soft sweep of our clothing against our skin, of the morning light on our faces, of the bitter yet rich bite of the day’s first cup of coffee, of the pulse of breath as it flows from and to us. This brings us into the present, into each second of the day. There’s no more numbed out hours where we forget we’re anything but lumps of tissue in front of the TV or thumbs pounding away at video game controllers or clever brains solving complex networking problems from a cubicle.

In the vital, precious present moment, we immerse ourselves into our original wild nature, and feel the pull of the forest from outside our doors. We remember how to hear the plants speaking to us, the earth calling our names, all through the connecting threads of our senses and the presence that allows us to hear and understand.

Utilizing your heightened sensory awareness, notice whenever you start to pull yourself from the present. Even (or especially) when the stress of marital strife, sick kids or a bad job triggers the desire to escape into fantasy or convenient distraction, bring yourself back. For many, the simplest way to to maintain presence is to engage in a sensorily rich and informative practice, such as gardening, dancing or gathering medicinal plants or cooking. Such activities require the respect of remaining in the moment and noticing each nuance.

Whenever your mind threatens to overflow with an endless train of words or barrage of useless images, bring yourself back to the now. Go outside and below the nearest tree or with whatever bit of wildness you can find. Don’t banish the words, just let them fade away in the face of the immediacy of tactile experience. Press your fingers to rough bark, or lay your face against smooth green leaves, or immerse your body in moving water. Give yourself back to the embrace of the moment, to the original speech that flows between us and the earth.


To remember, to open the senses fully, to bring ourselves back into fellowship with place  can take time, practice and great intent. For most of us, it means emerging from many years and generations of isolation and sensory deprivation. As difficult and confusing as this process of re-awakening can be, it’s also incredibly rewarding and pleasurable as we re-learn the almost lost language of our ancestors, of our more than human kin and the earth itself. For we who are healers and shamans, as the medicine people of an increasingly industrial age, this is the work of a lifetime. The more we can give ourselves back to sensory immersion in the natural world, the easier it will be to hear the plants and animals, the land itself, speaking to us. Likewise, we will better know what herbs are best in specific situations, what each person most needs to be whole and healed, and where our individual place in the great mystery lies. When we return to our senses, we awaken to the knowledge that the whole world is singing, that there is meaning and magic in every moment and thread of life, and that we are a part of it all. We remember that all of life speaks the same intense, sensory language, and then we too, begin listening and speaking within the wild dialogue of taste and touch, song, scent and sight.


All Pics (c)2009 Kiva Rose Hardin except Loba by Woodstove (c) 2009 Jesse Wolf Hardin

Dog & Cat Years: A Case for Presence – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Dog & Cat Years:

A Case for Presence

The Real Lesson Behind this Common Expression

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Dog & Cat years 1

I was thinking about the cat I told you about, Pumpkin-Sigh, how he’d reach for kisses while I was trying to write, flopping his head on the computer keys and thus making it nearly impossible to type!  He wanted me to know that he had his priorities straight, and that he was determined to show me the error of what he considered my workaholic ways.  Needless to say, the little feller ended up dying pretty young, like a lot of pets who grow up with lions, coyotes and hook-clawed owls for neighbors.  But I guarantee you, like most critters he could milk each and every day for all it was worth!

Sometimes when you ask a person how old their cat or dog is they’ll tell you that their Mad Max or little Fluffy “is six,” but then add how that’s really the same as being 42 (or whatever) in “dog years” or “cat years.”  I never knew what this meant as a kid, but it makes more sense to me these days.  I recognize that it could easily take the more “civilized” of our kind seven years of fooling, fudging and floundering just to take in what any simple creature experiences in one.  Now I’m not saying animals are smarter than people, but in fact the more intelligent folks have gotten the more estranged they’ve become from their bodies, emotions, instincts and needs… and the less they tend to notice what’s going on right in front of them, right now!

Ever wonder just how many minutes per day the average person spends fully in their sentient body, conscious of context and place, inhabiting the present moment?  Assuming we’re fortunate enough our tickets don’t get shortened by misfortune or disease, there still isn’t all that much time between when we’re too young to fully notice, and when we’re too senile or crotchety to care.  Unless you’re an insomniac you can deduct 8 hours of each day for sleep, right off the bat.  Now subtract for the long shifts spent distractedly performing repetitious tasks while on “automatic pilot,” standing in lines in big supermarkets or stuck in traffic.  Deduct any we waste jawing about things we’re not really interested in anyway, or watching other people’s make-believe lives on TV…. and then you’ll see.  Scarily enough, one can easily spend less than 60 minutes each day intensely and responsively aware.  That’s less than 52 hours per year fully, acutely alive!  Add up all the precious moments of satisfying presence and deep engagement, and the average modern folk may be wholly, consciously awake for less than 110 days of their entire adult life span!

Dog & Cat years 2

But hopefully, even the most distracted of indentured cubicle worker is called to attention by the breeze that accompanies the first opening of a window in a stuffy office, even an actor is seduced back into reality by the feel of their bed after a long day on their feet.  Surely we’re jerked to our senses by the surprising taste of something new, made wide awake and ready to act when we hear the sound of screeching brakes.  I know we country folk are thrust back into our selves whenever there’s an explosion of thunder, announcing a Summer shower.  When a child we love is out late, or doesn’t feel like getting out of bed.  When our husband or wife touches our worried brow.  We are most alive, most here, when we’re in danger. In a battle, or in love: suddenly conscious of every detail of our surroundings, and knowing just what to do.  It’s then that we’re as truly awake as our pets, whether they’re insisting on being rubbed, or alarmed at the approach of mountain wildlife.  It’s then that we’re teased out of the movies of our cluttered minds (tails flicking!), and are walked into the blessed light of present time.

(Blessings from Wolf… as I take a break to purr.  And please do post and forward this freely)

In Praise Of The Miraculous – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

In Praise Of The Miraculous

by Jesse Wolf Hardin


I remember well, back in the late 1970’s, the excitement generated by what many considered to be a modern day miracle.  A short order cook in the tiny mountain village of Taos Junction had flipped over a tortilla that he was frying, only to come face to face with a sepia-toned portrait of a sorrowful but all-forgiving Jesus Christ.  And a Jesus with an earthy sense of humor.  After rescuing it from the heat and saying the appropriate prayers, the perspiring chef showed it first to his envious coworkers and then to their astonished customers.  Meals and conversations came to a halt, while all clustered around the breakfast apparition.  Of those there at the time, the already devout had the fires of their beliefs well fueled, their convictions confirmed, their faith rewarded and confirmed.  One woman later claimed to have been cured of some unrecorded illness, and nobody contradicted her.  The sole atheist, it is said, began to reconsider his position, and to have actually admitted in public that not everything in the world could be adequately explained by the rational mind, nor qualified and quantified by scientific method.

I was only one of the several thousand people who came to witness the miracle over the course of the following few weeks, on display there for all to see.  There were up to 50 vintage pickups, family station wagons and low-riders parked there at any given time, as well as a smattering of chopped Harley-Davidson motorcycles driven up from Española.  A Mariachi band would drop by to provide entertainment for the onlookers, and in the evening the proprietor played cassette tapes on his boom-box, alternating between religious selections in Spanish and rock bands from the 50’s like The Platters, The Penguins, The Persuasions.  The least persuaded about its holy origins were the bikers, ordering two plates of huevos rancheros each… and the most convinced were the local farmers and ranchers, who felt there must have been a special reason why the apparition had appeared in New Mexico instead of El Paso, say, or in the rural West instead of somewhere in the more settled and sometimes more disbelieving East.  To settle the matter of the tortilla’s divine origins, the interested parties brought in the Arch Diocese of Santa Fe, but in the end he decided it was better not make a proclamation one way or the other.

He was a wise man.

Who can say, after all, what is a miracle and what is not?  The greatest mistake isn’t finding divine inspiration in the everyday, or holiness in the commonplace.  The greatest mistake is to take things for granted, failing to see in the familiar people, places and objects around us the suggestion of something larger, numinous and blessed.  We are surely all products of, and participants in, miracles, whether we are paying attention to them or not.

First, there is the miracle of life, no matter what you believe its cause.  What a tragedy, to forget even for a moment the wonder of each necessary breath, of our flesh and blood enabled somehow to move, to see, to know and better itself… to fall in love, to learn and to explore, to define and defend family and home, to serve something greater than ourselves alone, to paint pictures and write songs.

Some are big, like a precious little boy surviving a difficult brain operation.  Some seem smaller, but are still amazing, such as the way a cut heals itself until it disappears.  Or the way a pokey caterpillar turns into a butterfly, and then flies away.  It seems like a miracle to me, that we are allowed to outlast and potentially learn from our misjudgments and distortions.  That there are still exist rural communities like mine, in spite of the pressures of expanding world population and increased global regulation.  That there are still national forests, neither privatized nor subdivided, which all citizens have a right to and a responsibility for.  That there still exist places that appear fashioned by a specially empowered hand, land still unpaved and undeveloped, a home for myriad animals and plants and a place where all citizens can go to be quieted, nourished, strengthened and inspired.

As for myself, I see reflections of the miraculous in the eyes of loving children and in the way the mirror-like river turns the world upside down.  In the ascendent arc of little birds when they make their first scary flight.  In every gesture of caring or mercy, in these often uncaring and unforgiving times.  In wildflowers that somehow make it through waves of both flood and drought, and in the smiles of neighbors that still wave!  In the way that nature’s herbs can help heal you, and the way the most amazing plant begins its existence in the form of a most tiny seed.  In everything, most likely, can be found some evidence of the miraculous and the marvelous when we suspend our preconceptions and open to their greater meaning.

Over time, the image of Jesus faded as its edible canvas faced its inevitable decomposition.  Some say the short order cook and the faithful who flocked that followed were all mistaken in their interpretation.  I think that the bigger mistake (and this is no jest), is to look into even the most mundane and shapeless tortilla – into what can be the revealing patterns of our wondrous world and everyday lives – and behold anything less.

(distribute freely…)

Pitfalls On the Path – Disempowering Misconceptions & Comforting Illusions – Part 4 of 7 – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

Anima Logo & Words-Green5.2"72dpi

On the Animá Path of Self Growth, Self Realization, Service & Purpose

by Jesse Wolf Hardin
Part 4

Anyone on a path of self growth, self realization and purpose needs to be conscious of and honest about the distractions and comforting rationalizations, the over simplified ethnic romanticism, the imported and sanitized traditions, the non demanding relativism and easy ways out, and the get-enlightened-quick schemes that substitute for the real thing.  The following is the third in a series describing these dangerous or limiting Pitfalls on the path of personal growth and purpose, misconceptions and maladies that can hinder our understanding, development and manifestation.  Please feel to share these with friends, guaranteed to disrupt the pat thinking of New Age, spiritual and conservative audiences alike:

• The Myth Of The Hundredth Monkey
There is always a temptation for false hopes, as we embrace ideas that ease our concerns, ambivalence and worries.  And when investing ourselves in a path or course of action, we look for any comforting signs that our efforts will succeed in the end.  The “Hundredth Monkey” hypothesis asserts that major culture-wide shifts are certain to follow with the hundredth convert to a new idea or value, as momentum impacts the larger cultural and political stream.  Our efforts are far more sincere and committed, when they are based on the rightness of a cause or a need that we can help with, with no certainty of results or success.  We are indeed more apt to accomplish a purpose or goal when we act decidedly, regardless of the likelihood.

• The Myth That We Shouldn’t “Make Waves”
We like to protect and nourish, our role often being the maintenance of family and preservation of the nest.  It is more difficult, usually, for us to embrace change, and we have to be vigilant not to compromise our values, experience and purpose out of worry over upsetting people or upending situations.  The best path is not always the smoothest, and the path of our truth sometimes requires “making waves.”

• The Misinterpretation Of Peace
There is no peace per say in nature, only cycles of give and take, life and death, quiet and song, helping to strengthen as well define any seemingly contending parts, creating a perfect dynamic balance overall.  And true inner peace is neither acceptance of the seemingly inevitable, nor undemanding tranquility… it is the state of being sated and centered, even when faced with deprivation and turmoil.  Peace is a deep contentment that arises from self knowledge and self acceptance, an inner balance that – like a ship’s gyroscope – ensures personal peace no matter how much we are tossed about by the storms raging around us.  Peace is more a product of energetic focus and commitment, than it is of agreement.  We are most at peace with ourselves and our beliefs when they can stand the challenge of detractors, defy consensus, survive disagreement, and continue to grow without outside affirmation or support.  Such peace results not from accomplishment, so much as from the knowledge that we have done our best… and that we have done so for all the most generous and significant of reasons.  It comes from a feeling of connection to the rest of the dynamic, living world, and from the ongoing fulfillment of our most meaningful purpose.

…to be continued

(To further deepen your study and practice we recommend enrolling in the various Animá 8 Week Courses described on the website, especially the introductory “Orientation, Principles & Pitfalls”)

(Forward, copy and post freely)

The Response-Ability to Resist – Determining Why and When – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

The following is Wolf’s most recent teachings regarding personal defense and social resistance, the nature of violence and importance of informed response.  As he’s written elsewhere: “In the natural world, ecosystem health is not a product of peaceful acceptance but effort and contest, made stronger by the tension in such dynamic balance, with no single individual or species able to maintain an upper hand over the rest.  For us humans, that resistance is not just about standing up for ourselves and our love ones, but for freedom, diversity and justice.  And not just against an individual attacking us, but any system, ruler or government impinging on what we know matters most.”  Hear him clearly: his case is not so much for purposeful confrontation, as essential as that at times may be, but rather, against “victimhood, acquiescence and inaction.” This is no manifesto spelling out how things should be, but a set of questions for us each to answer as we  determine for ourselves why and when to act… and consider the price of doing nothing.

The Response-Ability to Resist
Determining Why and When to Fight Back

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

I am no proponent of confrontation and wolfviolence, I’m a proponent of wholeness and balance, diversity and life, freedom and compassion, nature and truth.  But in the process of holding to such values, I have not only felt it necessary to physically repel attacks, but also to protest injustice and impede destruction, and to intervene in situations where I wasn’t even sure I could make a difference.  I have done such out of a realization that we now teach in Animá: that we are responsible not only for what we do, but also in part for any results that arise from or personal and collective failure to act.

I’ve heard it said that confrontation or violence is only justifiable or practical in immediate defense of one’s home and family, and never against an idea.  And that we become no different from the aggressors if we forcefully resist them.  Such points would seem to lead to some rather essential questions, one’s that nobody can answer for us.

Let’s start with the first point, using the most exaggerated example for the sake of clarity.  If we knew there were a band of murderous men, once abused as children but now sworn to the idea that raping and killing young kids is not only acceptable but somehow righteous, who were going from neighborhood to neighborhood doing the most horrendous things to the girls there, would you stay home rather than confront the acts this idea fed?  Second question: what if their path and direction would soon take them to your own neighborhood, would you wait until they were at your very doorstep to intervene, or postpone any attempt at action until you had personally and in the moment failed to talk them out of torturing your daughter?  At what point does inaction, whether in defense of children or of the community, the forests we depend on, the threatened plants and animals with no constituency, voice or defense of their own?

On the other hand, perhaps like me you could justify taking offensive action before the raiders got to your town or block, striking their camp at night before any more atrocities could be perpetrated?  In that case we have to ask if you would take such definitive action even if the raiders were heading to attack a town in a different direction, or if they were committing their depredations in another country, against people we will never meet?  And there is the matter of degrees as well as emotional or physical distance. Would you stand up to forcefully prevent a girl from being emotionally abused, or only physically?  To protect a boy as quickly as a girl?  An adult as much as a child?  A stranger as well as a family member?  A pet we are promised to, or wild creature we might never see with our own eyes?  Then what confrontation over the pollution of a water source that the children as well as ourselves depend upon?  Raising hell over the depleting and poisoning of the soil we cannot exist without?  You might stand up for a plant that you use for herbal medicine or a food-bearing fruit tree your grandmother once tended, but what about those wondrous species with no known human use, whose beautiful flowers you may never lay eyes on?

And then there is the matter of fighting against acts but not ideas.  In general it sounds good, since so much personal injustice has been committed as part of attacks on religious and cultural ideas, from the imprisonment of outspoken revolutionaries to the violence that drove the Puritans from England to America.  We must ask ourselves, was the time to confront Nazism when they were gassing thousands of scape-goated jews and gypsies, or when the idea of an all powerful elite was first foisted?  If we could justify confronting or forcefully obstructing the abuse of children or the ecosystem, to what degree might we also be willing to confront people or institutions teaching, promoting or even imposing a dogma where abuse is held to be justifiable or even laudable?  Can an idea, by virtue of the multiple evil acts or climate of oppression it engenders, be more harmful and in need of our active opposition than a single instance of a person being physically attacked?

When using activism or even violence for some end, we may indeed be in some danger of emulating the destroyers, of becoming like them… but only if we are detached and lack a clear ethos as to both what is acceptable and what is intolerable, what we would risk death for, but also what we live for.  Only with the above questions asked, and more, can we hope to have the kind of personal ethos and code that can make us effective as well as responsible co-creators instead of victims of this world and life.

(Those wishing assistance with the creation of a code of honor that reflects your values and beliefs, can benefit from enrollment in the Animá Orientation Correspondence Course)

(Please copy, post and forward freely…)