The Rituality of Spirituality 2
This was written after attending a weekend of workshops titled: AT THE GATEWAY: Transitions into spirituality in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a requirement for my master’s degree in Transpersonal Studies at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology now called Sophia University
Just prior to attending the seminar presented by the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology on Welcoming the Sacred: Indigenous Spiritual Practices, I began to revisit my spirituality. In the book Transitions, by William Bridges, he states the first rule of transition: “You find yourself coming back in new ways to old activities, when you’re in transition.” In the past I took my experience of spirituality for granted. Today, I have come to exploring my spirituality, looking at what spirituality means to me, and looking towards community of spiritual commonalties. It seems only appropriate that the theme of this seminar offered me many synchronicities that engaged my spiritual quester and perceptions.
Dr. Pat Brown’s presentation, Sacred Psychology of the Pueblo, clarified the role culture and community play in the spiritual perspective of the psyche. She discussed the many considerations related to the psychology of the indigenous individuals who came to her for therapy. She spoke about the symbols, myths, personified emanations, personal identities, and the universal impersonal of the Indian culture. Respectfully she even noted how the construction of the pueblo, rituals, and the connection with nature prominent in the Indian culture, offering her a deeper perspective of the Indian psyche. And although these cultural influences may vary from pueblo to pueblo, there were also commonalties to be found.
In my personal experience, Brown’s presentation offered me a vantage to begin to understand my spirituality/psyche relationship from the perspective of my racial, cultural, religious, and community backgrounds; being racially an African/Indian/American woman, raised in a Western culture, as an Episcopalian, and as an adult am supported socially in a community of lesbian/bisexual/eco-centric and hetero-centric women. In addition, for over 30 years I have studied an art form that is based in the Chinese philosophies of Taoism and Buddhism. As I look into the sacred mirrors of life, I am awestruck as I begin to understand that my symbolism, connection to Nature, people relationships, and the responsibility I feel towards my community evolved from all of my associative experiences.
I have had quite a bit of experience with the mirrors, shadows, and lights of life. The Watering the Spiritual Roots workshop heightened my awareness so that I could fully open my senses to the mirrors around me during the seminar. The folly began at home with Elegba, a Yoruba deity characterized as the trickster, and followed me in the form of Coyote, also symbolized as a bit of a trickster in many Indian Nations. It is my understanding that both Elegba and Coyote reside at the gateway of the Divine Spirit. I distinguished the playful spirit as Coyote at the seminar rather than Elegba because the characteristic of my experiences – now you see me, now you don’t, resembled more the symbolism of a coyote than the spirit of an African deity.
My first experience with Coyote was with my water bottle. To distinguish my water bottle from bottles belonging to the other participants at the seminar, I colored in the brand name. What I did not realize was that the brand name was identically printed on the opposite side of the bottle. This was where Coyote had fun with me. Each time I set the bottle down, it was facing the opposite direction. And each time I either thought I’d lost my bottle and picked up someone else’s by accident or had found my bottle. This happened three times before I realized that I had neither lost nor found my bottle but had it with me all the time.
As I reflect on the symbolism and bizarre ritual of the twirling water bottle dance the water, or “divine essence,” as Hartman Lomowaima expressed in his presentation – Preparation and Protection of the Ritual Drama, seem to represent the source of spirituality. No matter which bottle I might have thought I had or which way I had turned it, the content was the gift of spirituality. In a sense, this experience, drama, bizarre ritual, represented an initiation of some sort, a beginning of understanding spirituality.
I took much of Lomowaima’s generous sharing about the ceremonial, ritual, and scared places of the Tewa Indians in the San Felipe Pueblo with me as I sat intently watching their Corn Dance. Although I had seen the corn dance performed at San Felipe Pueblo and Santo Domingo Pueblo before, I had new eyes, a different filter enriched with new content. I began to see a commonalty within indigenous people’s spirituality. Again, there was the folly, the clown, the Kochari at the gateway leading the ritual.
Following the Kochari was the flag of blessing, the drummers and singers of prayers, and an auspicious dance all performed in successive playlets by a community of people. A community engaged in total participation. They came together in the plaza, then dissolved leaving a joyful delight of rhythms – of dance, drum, voices, rattles, colors, harmonized essence and flowing senses streaming throughout my being.
My heart had been opened prior to going to the Corn Dance during Paloma Pavel’s workshop – Deep Ecology. At Pavel’s workshop I experienced an inner alchemy that seemed threaded to the celestial divine, and I soften. This seed of unconditional giving was nurtured at the Corn Dance. As a witness, I became a part of the drama and ritual, and with the essence of all that I have come from joined the San Felipe community in spiritual focus.
The last I saw of Coyote was three days after the presentation on Transpersonal Medicine by Frank Lawlis, John Montoyo, and Gerdi Sanchez. Before the three days were to pass, I would see Coyote three more times.
The first time was during the guided meditation Frank Lawlis facilitated. The answer to my “very clear” question was delivered in what had become a familiar humorous fashion. As Frank Lawlis had instructed in this meditation, I found my spirit-guide. It jumped into my lap in the form of a salmon as I sat by a waterfall. I very clearly asked my spirit guide to help me find my spirituality. The communication I received was a flood of images. Images of me walking in the woods, sitting by lakes and oceans, being in a green field, enjoying the space and crisp, clear, sunny days. At the time, I was concerned that my question was not truly getting answered as to the “finding” of my spirituality; so, I asked again.
Again, I saw the same visions of places and noticed the feeling of tranquility that accompanied the images. Within the images of my meditation lied an obvious and alarmingly funny conclusive answer. The answer struck me, and I began to chuckle softly to myself. This was my answer: go to the places that relate to Nature and let that bring joy and pleasure to your soul and your spirituality will “jump into your lap.”
Gerdi’s spirit-guide is the Eagle. Gerdi Sanchez, an Indian Medicine Woman also spoke to us during the presentation, Transpersonal Medicine. The second time I saw Coyote was when I took my roommate, Tracy, to see Gerdi. Since I had rented a car at the airport and Tracy had taken the shuttle, I volunteered to drive her to her appointment with Gerdi. I had lived in Santa Fe before and had an idea of where Gerdi lived when Tracy gave me the landmarks of San Ildefonso Pueblo, Black Mountain, and Puye Cliff Dwellings. Gerdi’s directions seemed simple enough. “When you come over the hill, you’ll see Black Mountain, about two miles down the road, you’ll see my mailbox with the name Sanchez on it, and you’ll be there,” Tracy recited from the notes she had taken from Gerdi while she talked to her over the phone.
We came over the hill, saw Black Mountain, and drove for two miles, three, four, and still no mailboxes. Tracy suggested I turn left at the road towards the Puye Cliff Dwellings to see if there were any mailboxes alongside that road. I didn’t think there were any houses up that road but took that route anyway just in case. After driving for a couple of miles, I stopped and exclaimed, “Why do Medicine People always have to make it so damn difficult? Either you have to sit outside the doors of the monastery for 10 days in the rain and blistering sun (a Kung Fu movie); or you get there again after having been there once before only to find out that the house is not there, but was there 50 years ago (Carlos Castineda); or they say they’re in one location and you find out after an hour of looking, that they are really 15 miles north of where they had said (personal experience with Luisha Tish, Voodoo Priestess). But what this Medicine Woman, and Coyote, did not count on I explained to my ride-shares, is that this time “I have a cell phone!” We laughed and gave Gerdi a call.
“Let me talk to her,” I said as I playfully snatched the phone from Tracy. “Gerdi where are you? We’re up the road close to Puye.” “Ohhh,” she said. “You passed it. Go back to the main road, turn right, go past the church, and the first cattle-guard you come to on your left, turn there. Now the road branches off in three directions, stay to your right and then you’ll see my mailbox.” I asked Tracy why Gerdi did not tell her these details before, and we laughed again. Finally, on the right track, we discussed that it seems only fitting that one would experience trialsand tribulations when approaching a major spiritual transition. The physical manifestation of this would be the difficulty in finding the spiritual guide.
After dropping Tracy off, I headed for San Ildefonso to look at the pottery for an hour or so while Tracy had her session. It was a beautiful-blue-sky day. As I pull out onto the main road, Ilooked up through my sunroof to take a quick glance and saw a golden eagle, took a deep breath and sighed, “Ahhhhh, Gerdi, thank you.”
The last I saw of Coyote was on the plane back to Ann Arbor. Frank Lawlis had told us after the guided meditation that if we had truly connected with our spirit-guide, if it really became a part of our being, it would reveal itself to us in a very direct or indirect way within three days. Well I kept an eye out for that Salmon and didn’t notice it anywhere. I looked for salmon carvings, pictures, maybe I would find one on a shirt. Nothing. So, there I was, three days later, on my way home. No salmon. I thought about the seminar, Santa Fe, the Corn Dances, and my last evening in Santa Fe with my friends.
Picking Tracy up from Gerdi’s we pulled into Santa Fe at about 6:00 PM. I dropped Tracy off at the Plaza in downtown Santa Fe and we said our good-byes. When I arrive at my friends’ house, they had fixed squid. I curled my lip and said, “Ewww, I’m not eating that!” They laughed at me and told me I was as bad as their 10-year-old daughter. Their stove was broken so they prepared something else for me to eat using their neighbor’s stove. It was a great evening. We laughed, told stories, I played cards with their daughter, and retired early because I had an early flight out.
Now on the plane, I enjoyed reminiscing about my events and was disappointed about not having my spirit-guide reveal itself to me. Maybe I missed it…. maybe I really didn’t connect … my mind rambled on and on, whining about not having made that connection. Then it struck me. And again, I was filled with laughter. The night before, what Nubia had prepared for me to eat, was Salmon