Santa Cruz Harbor Ocean Sunset

Softening at the Ocean

I am at home and I feel a certain restlessness. It is one I am not unfamiliar with, it is the feel of the ocean telling me that I need to come and sit with her for awhile. At first I resist, I have this or that to do, but in the end I concede and allow my heart to drawn to her shore. As I approach, the sound beckons me to come closer. I sit down on the sand giving myself a few minutes to transition from one world to another. The endless ebb and flow of the tide on the shoreline slowly seeps in. I feel my self slowly relaxing, letting go of what feels like a hardened thin crust of clay I have created to protect me from certain aspects of our modern world. I have not created it consciously, but almost as impulse or reaction by my body to the constant inundation of sounds, sights, and pace of modern living.

Grandmother sea, tate haramara, sends her beauty and love to me the instant I sit down. I can feel that thin layer softening, being melted by her continual beauty. I feel more relaxed. I feel my mind slow. I feel my heart opening to receive what she offers. I close my eyes trying to deepen my connection. The sound of the wind, the sound of the seagulls, pelicans, cormorants, and sandpipers. The sound of each wave breaking, the rush of the water up the sand and then racing to return to the ocean. There are other background noises, but I close them out. I focus just on the sound of the water until that is all I can hear. I can feel my heart trying to catch and hold onto anything my spiritual grandmother has to say and is willing to send my way.

As I rise and prepare to leave, once again I feel that tugging and a small sadness in my heart. I do not want to leave. I tell my grandmother I will miss her, I will pray to her, I will imagine her until I return again. As I walk away, I thank her for the healing I feel.

The return of light. Finding hope and life.

Remembering to Live

Over and over again I have heard in the last months what a difficult winter this has been  for people.  It certainly was for me with the loss of a close loved one and a serious physical injury. At times it felt as if I was holding on by a thread, or drowning in a stormy sea. I got so lost in this turbulent time that I could hardly believe in the change of season, the coming of spring and return of the light.

Upon arriving in Crete the depth of my depletion became startlingly apparent. I realized I had lost consiousness when singing “Wani Wachi Elo”, no longer sure if I really wanted to live. The land and sea were quickly there to love and restore my confidence in life. Tate Hara Mara was my constant companion, comforting me with her ocean sounds. She calmed me, was angry, informative. During my swims she rocked me like a baby, bouying me up in her soothing, saline arms, washing me clean, delivering me fresh to begin again with eyes open, to take in the beauty of Spring blosoming  all around me. Each morning I would go to her and listen with my heart to what she had to share, to take in the colors of sunrise so I could wake up. I would go to the blow hole so that I might hear her breath and recalibrate my breathing to go on. Tate Yurinaka was so present with her loving healing vibration that I could sleep no more than 4–5 hours a night. The land of Crete is definitely still alive!  Leaving this magical place is always hard. During the last few days of our stay, Ecatewari, Goddess of Wind, paid us a strong visit, blowing the winds of change across the waters, stirring things up, like any good eagle mother, booting us out of the nest. I found myself during the bus ride to the airport praying for rain, for Crete’s fertility and  for fertility in my life. As rain drops appear I realize, “Oh Great Spirit I once again want to live!” Thank you for my life! Thank you ancient ones for listening!

Reflections of a Journey In - Woman healing her depression

Reflections of a Journey Within

I woke up gasping for breath my heart pounding.  A heavy weight sitting on my chest.  These words ringing in my ears, “Get Brant!”  This dream as real as the surroundings of my bedroom.  It is February 17, 2008.  What I remember before being startled awake was the end of a dream in which three rectangular black shapes move through the air toward me.  One, closer than the others begins to form into the shape of an anvil and I know it will land on my chest and sink into me.

I have studied dreams for over twenty years and do not take them lightly.  I thought I might be in actual physical danger including the possibility of a heart attack.  Brant Secunda was also in the dream.  The fear of the black anvil started in the dream and continued upon awaking.  I could not stop this thing from coming into me.

That morning on my way to work I called Dance of the Deer Foundation.  I have been attending workshops offered by Brant Secunda, a Huichol shaman, for several years.  I especially appreciated Brant as my teacher, the Huichols honoring of dreams, and all of the work that the foundation does to support the wonderful Huichol tradition. Brant responded that it was not a heart attack but rather a spiritual crisis.  There were some very specific suggestions about what would help at that moment.   Of course, I did them.

Three months later I found I was eating everything in sight, especially sugar, sitting on my couch watching TV with no energy or enthusiasm, only going to work and home again.  A friend of mine, who is a teacher and a counselor, thought it might be depression and suggested I make an appointment with my medical doctor. I did.  Her diagnosis: severe depression.  Her solution: medication.

I suddenly saw years of moving in and out of depression and how unbelievably tired of it all I was.  I truly did want out.  I finally recognized the toll that this pattern had taken on my physical, psychological and spiritual body.  I understood that I had been spending over half of my life trying to pull myself out of the depression and negativity that surrounded me.  Like living in an unbelievably thick fog bank.

I called Dance of the Deer again, fearing that the only way out would be drugs, which I had never taken and did not want to take now.  It would be three weeks until the upcoming Dance of Deer retreat in Alaska and I was asked if I could wait until after that retreat before taking any medication. I vowed to hold out until then. For the first time I remembered the dream from February and the spiritual crisis.  Was this what the dream was trying to get to my attention? How could I, by myself, change?  I was too depressed and exhausted to even think about it.

Then the magical wild world of the Alaska retreat came.  As soon as I set foot on that land I began to sink into it.  Then the quiet, peace, calm, and beautiful practice of the Huichol traditions began.  The whale, eagle, and even raven songs floating around me. The beautiful and loving Dance of the Deer community and especially for me, the children.  Slowly, I began to breathe again.  It felt as if I had been holding my breath for months or maybe even a lifetime. I returned home much better.  As the days and images began to fade, I wondered, had a shift actually happened?  Doubts returned.  I was thankful that the time for the Dance of the Deer Mt. Shasta retreat would be coming up soon.

As I arrived at Mt. Shasta I saw the mountain outlined in blue smoke and the air filled with left over haze from a huge forest fire that had recently been in that area.  I felt a deep sadness, not to see much of Shasta or the beautiful snow.  An inner shadow reflecting my own darkness and a fear that the depression might not be completely gone.

And then once again; prayer, song, dancing and the beautiful Dance of the Deer community arising.  I settled into the depth of the land, the Huichol tradition and the majesty of that healing mountain.  Brant’s teachings, the daily exercise, healthy food, the kind and loving people touched me deeply.  With each breath I began to relax and let go.  I knew I was better but should I stay longer and if so why?

Soon this shorter introductory time would end and another longer time would start.  What should I do?  We were sent out by Brant to sit, be still and just be with the mountain.  This is one of my favorites among many of the wonderful exercises that Brant teaches us.   I knew as I connected with Shasta that I was better, but I also got a sense that there was something more, something not quite finished yet. I decided to stay for the longer session.  It was a pivotal decision.

The next ten days would take me back to the mountain twice more.  The second time for an extended stay.  What a rare opportunity.  As I sat there on the mountain with my back against a large boulder, a creek running near by, the peak directly in front of me, I felt different, a sense of wholeness that I had never experienced before.  I watched the sun, clouds, light, and wind change and flow in front of me.  I felt Brant’s presence and the years of the many gatherings on this mountain.  I remembered all of the ancient ones who had been there before and Brant’s words to not forget the power and gifts of this mountain.  I felt as if I was on holy ground.

I know that staying for the longer group grounded and rooted the seeds of healing from depression, which had begun in Alaska and the beginning group time of Mt. Shasta. That in this process of staying I had been given the gift of a loving and caring community, something I desperately needed.  I had been given the strength and courage to change my life in small yet powerful ways.  I had been given the support of laughter, encouragement, and honesty so that I could actually believe my life could be different.

I am so thankful to everyone, but especially, to Brant, my teacher for his kindness, patience, wisdom and ability to hold onto his commitment to bring these teachings of the Huichol traditions into our Western world.  To the Dance of the Deer community who work so hard to show us what a Western Huichol community looks and feels like.

Each morning when I pray I give thanks for my life.  Such a simple thing and yet each time it brings me to deep humility and tears.  Brant, Nico, Barbara, Dance of the Deer, Huichols, Mt. Shasta, Alaska — I thank you for my life.