Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Self-care: the NEW New Year's Resolution

Hi friends,
I have not written in two weeks now, mostly because I have been on an increasingly strict Ayurvedic cleanse called the Ejuva Program for most of January. I am in the final five days! This program goes from simply adding a set of herbs and a psyllium-husk drink into your normal three-meals-a-day routine, in phase one, increasing the number of sets of herbs and psyllium drinks each week, and decreasing the number of meals, till you get to phase four: four sets of herbs and psyllium drinks, and zero meals (but fresh fruit and veggie juices are permitted). The depth of the cleanse is apparent in that I am barely able to formulate words, and for each five letters I type, I make about three mistakes! (Ok I am exaggerating about it but seriously, I am on another planet mentally.)

Still, I want to say a word here about the tradition of the New Year's Resolution: that happy spark of enthusiasm so many have when approaching the New Year, when each "resolvee" plans to finally lose that weight, add on that exercise program, quit that bad habit, etc. ALL of which involve "D-O-I-N-G," which is why they most oftentimes fail. These programs and regimes are strictly based on a masculine approach to power, which is power OVER. Attempting to put something into, or take something out of, your life, based on a mental concept of some perceived reward (I will be skinnier, more fit, stronger, healthier, etc.) None of those things are wrong or bad... but what is unfortunate is that many of us do not accept ourselves as we are NOW. We adopt these resolutions to try to change ourselves into the people we want to be. And why? Because we are not happy with ourselves the way we are. And so we try to change, with all our will, and fail, and then of course have more ammunition with which to beat ourselves up. I have done this particular New Year’s dance SO many times!

So how to get out of this cycle? Well, I am 27 days into my cleansing program, and am actually fasting on veggie juice - in the winter, no less - and while I am finding it challenging on some levels (cold!), overall, it has been easy to continue. Why? Because I am not doing it for any other reason than to take care of myself. I have no other goal. I don't care if I lose weight; I don't worry about what others think. My entire goal is about self-care. I want to promote the healthiest, happiest body of which I am capable, and as I became aware of some problems with my elimination system over the past few years, (which really have been with me through my whole life) here I am doing a four-week cleanse in the middle of the winter and (mostly) loving it. Frigging awesome!

So, I sign off this week in the very happy (and increasingly less murky) depths of resetting and rejuvenating my digestive and eliminative systems. I thank the Spirit for giving me the time and space to do this inner work, as well as for the strength to stick to it.

Blessings of self-care to you all,

Monday, January 16, 2012

Teens, Sweat Lodges, and more...

Hi friends,
I already forgot my resolution to write this every Sunday - so here I am, playing catch-up again. How quickly I get distracted! I have a good excuse, though. I was out in Williams, Oregon yesterday, putting on a sweat lodge for my daughter's boyfriend's 21st birthday. He asked me to do this for him... something I consider to be a minor - no a major - miracle. And typically, our 10 am departure time quickly became 11:40 am; there was no additional fire-tender, so many of the kids had to step up and help in new ways, which took explaining time; we returned home, exhausted, around 6:30 pm, and then there were burritos to build and eat. Truth is, you really can't rush teenagers who have been up half the previous night to get anywhere on a schedule, even if it is something they want to do.

Amazingly, going to sweat lodge is just that - something they want to do.

OK, to backtrack a bit, I have been studying with a teacher for the past five years, and just recently (last winter) received the blessing to begin 'pouring water' as they say: which means running or facilitating a sweat lodge. I have had the incredible good fortune to have been given a piece of land to use - for a year - as the site of my sweat lodge altar. The land couldn't be more beautiful. It sits in a clearing with a bordering creek, with no close neighbors, out in the country where the air is fresh and the human-made noise is minimal.

The model of this lodge comes from the Fuego Sagrado Vision Quest camp. It is much like a traditional Lakota (northern Native American) sweat lodge in many ways - with some very distinct differences. This is not the forum to go into all that, but if anyone interested wants to know more, give me a call. Or come out to Williams to a sweat!

Switching to a separate track of my life, my passion for the past decade has been to find an authentic way to work with teens, to help them in the difficult transition from kid to adult. To give them a safe space, a sacred space, in which to be themselves. I got my Master's Degree in Education and became a public school teacher, thinking this was a way to accomplish this. Not true. The public school system is a lot of things, but a proponent of the authentic self? Not even close.

My daughter, bless her heart, has been brought up around ceremonies, and continues to choose to participate in them. Last year, she asked for an all night prayer meeting, which we scheduled for her 17th birthday in November (11/11/11!) and in order to prepare, asked for me to run a lodge for her and nine of her friends. This was this past October. Since then we have had four teen sweats, most of them attended solely by teens (the one we did right before the solstice was an exception, with many adults in attendance).

Which brings me to say that my two worlds have met, finally, and good things are stirring... Sacred ceremony is a perfect vehicle for connecting with the authentic self. The sweat lodge is, on the surface, a simple purification ceremony. But there is so much more to it that that.

And so, my daughter and her teenaged friends are coming to the sweat lodge, and I am unbelievably grateful and overwhelmed... and aware of the incredible amount of angst they are carrying and wanting to do something to help and doing something to help but not sure it is enough and wondering what the F@#*! is going on in our society where the teens feel just so shitty and alienated and depressed. Ok yes I remember as a teen I was stressed and angsty and tried my best to make myself numb by partying all the time. But the 'future' was something that people still believed in back then. Now? 2012? Everyone's waiting for the end of the world! The teens are so afraid that everything they know is going to disappear, and that they are not safe. They feel so disconnected from everything. There are no jobs; kids are dropping out of high school, making money however they can (illegally, most of the time), and, the way it seems to me, helping each other cope through the worst of it; basically raising each other. We need connection! We need the village! We need our elders! Other adults who are not their parents who can be there as positive examples.

I know this is raw. I am out of time (that would be a good trick if it were literally true, don't you think?). Send some prayers our way, or to your local teens, wherever you are. If you have some time, or can make the time, become a mentor. Take a teen to a sweat lodge, or put one on for them. Relate instead of react! Remember how it was when you were a teen. What, if anything, do you wish had been different? Make that your offering.

Thank you , Creator, for preserving the sweat lodge ceremony until this day. We SO need these ceremonies to remember what is really important, what is truly sacred in this life.

Aho Mitakue Oyasin.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Vision Questing in Colombia

Greetings and Happy New year!
I am so motivated to be who I AM and to do the things I am meant to do in this new year! I am excited to once again share this journey with you. I trust in the Great Spirit, in the Divine guidance that is available in every moment, to inspire my words, and to lead any who might benefit from reading them here to this offering.

Last night was the first ceremony marking the start of the 2012 Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan - Colombian Vision Quest Camp, so I feel inspired to share about that vision quest process and my experiences there over the last five years. First, a short introduction. The Sacred Fire of Itzachilatlan tribe (Itzachilatlan is the term for the combined North, Central, and South American Continents) is a tribe by practice, not blood - which means anyone (with approval and invitation by an elder in the tribe) can come and participate in the Vision Quest. The process requires a commitment to four years of vision questing - "going on the hill" - and four years of support at the camp.

My beloved partner Sean is probably sitting in the ceremonial sweat lodge (in Spanish, temescal) right now, getting ready to go out for his fourth year on the hill. He will be there from today, January 8, until the morning of January 21 (see below for a short explanation of our vision questing model). Several other Americans and many, many of our Colombian brothers and sisters will also be on the hill during this time. All prayers are welcome!

In our tradition, each year of the process starts with an intention, and builds on itself in subsequent years. Thus, in the first year, a person goes out for four days with the prayer of 'Humility." During these four days, they fast from food and water, and their only possessions on the hill are a wool blanket, a mosquito net, a poncho, the clothes they are wearing plus one extra layer, a small medicine plant, and a prayer tobacco, rolled in a corn husk, which they must keep safe (dry). There are no artificial fabrics, no paper, no distractions, no tent, no tarp - nothing man-made between them and the earth and sky. They are surrounded by four directional posts (prayer stakes) bearing the colors of the directions, and three more posts representing the other three directions - above, below and within - stay in the east 'gate' during their first year. Around these directional stakes are strung their personal prayers - 365 tobacco ties - forming approximately an eight-foot square space. This is where the vision quester will pray during their time when they are "planted" on the hill.

In later years, the form of the previous year is repeated, with more days added, and with a different focus prayer. In the second year, questers ('buscadores' in Spanish) go on the hill for seven days; in the third year, questers go on the hill for nine days; and finally, in the fourth year, questers go on the hill for thirteen days. Each year, support - in the form of food and either medicinal tea or water - is brought to the vision questers after the initial four-day fast, at prescribed intervals.

Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan Vision Quest Camps camps exist in many other countries in addition to Colombia, such as the United States, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Chile, Mexico (where this model started), and Spain.

I completed my fourth year of the vision quest last year. It was my fifth year traveling to Colombia, and my second attempt at my fourth year of vision quest - which is a story I will save for another time! When I think about how to put into words what I have learned a result of this process, I actually do not know what to say. I am a completely different person now than when I started this process. I am certain that vision questing has augmented every other spiritual or other training I have ever undertook in my life. It has pushed me further than I ever thought I could go. The experience of fasting from water for four days (several times!), in particular, has brought me to a deeper appreciation of what is truly important and sacred in life. Vision questing is a path for the true warrior, and I am happy to acknowledge that as I am a spiritual warrior in this lifetime, being put to the test in this way really worked for me. Yet my experience is so uniquely my own, to share it, it seems, might encourage or otherwise engender comparison, or competition, with other paths, with others who have vision quested using a different model...

And so despite my intentions for starting to write this particular story, I find that what I can say about vision questing is not what I thought I would say. My teacher once said that he could offer 'wisdoms' or teachings all day long, but that to truly understand them, one had to live them, experientially. Vision Questing is like that. No one can tell you how it will be for you, or what you will learn. No one can tell you if it is even a good idea for you to go. It really is a calling, and when you hear it, as I did, you suddenly know what you have to do, and nothing will stand in the way of your answering that call. Vision questing is one way to access our true and authentic connection with Spirit, the (apparent)lack of which is the source of so much of our yearning. It is an authentic way to learn about simplicity, discipline, balance, stillness, focus, prayer, gratitude, acceptance, release, responsibility, humility, and much, much more.

Thank you to all of the chiefs, medicine people, medicines, helpers, and participants who continue to make this prayer a reality. Thank you to Chief Tekpankalli for being the channel for this model, and to my teacher, Alberto, for holding the Sacred Fire in his heart the way he does.

I realize that I have not followed my previous model for this blog, in which I included quotes from a song, a book, wisdom from the ceremonies, etc. I think from now on I will do that if called, but not all the time. Trying to stick to that form eventually drove me to stop writing this blog the last time, because it required so much prep time in finding and compiling the material.

I do have a book recommendation, though.
It is The Presence Process by Michael Brown.
This book contains an amazing 11-week procedure for self-discovery and many, many pearls of wisdom. It is worth your time and effort if you are looking for 'causal' change. To find out what that means, read the book!

Blessings and love to you all in this new year.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

May 30, 2010

Well, here is it, the last Sunday in May, finally beautiful weather outside, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend... we have been having a very wet and cold spring here in southern Oregon so far, and the warmth and sunshine are most welcome! I am feeling good about the rhythm of writing this blog once a week. It seems just right.

I have been thinking of so many things lately. Here's a sample: What can I personally do today and tomorrow to honor Veterans in a way that feels authentic to me? ** How can I express my grief about what is happening with the oil spill in the Gulf in a healthy way? What can I do to help this situation? ** How do I choose a counselor to help me with my currently inactive but still present tobacco addiction? ** How can I increase my self-discipline, so that I do those things each day which, if I did them, would increase my experience of health and well-being? ** Should I move my family back to New Mexico? What is right/best for my daughter? ** When would be the best time for my CD release party, and where should it be held? ** What kind of healing arts training do I want to pursue, and how? ** And - relentlessly - How can I lose the weight I gained from quitting smoking this winter? Why do I have such a struggle accepting myself as I am?

My mind is kind of like a merry-go-round... each one of these subjects is a painted horse, and as I watch the wheel turn I see one flash by, then the next, then the next... but I am not able to isolate and study just one of them at a time. I guess I need to make a deal with the guy in the center, and ask him to turn off the carousel: then I can focus on a single "horse" at a time!

Song quote of the day: Life is like, a merry-go-round, painted ponies going up and down, music takes you and your gone again, crazy circles never seem to end. Oh I, will face the sun, leaving shadows far behind, and together we'll go on, through time..."
Crazy Circles
by Bad Company

Ceremony quote of the day: " Whatever you want to do, get clear with that, and make your decision... do not wait for a sign, for something outside of yourself to tell you what to do... and then the prayers can go to the Spirit to help support the best outcome of that decision." Medicine elder, Winter 2009

Book quote of the day: Become a Belly Breather! " When you breathe fully, your heart slows and you feel calm and peaceful. The breath is the single most vital tool for attaining a sense of peace and calm, helping to eliminate the effects of stress. Most of the symptoms of aging are related to a deficiency of oxygen at the cellular level... Ultimately, the trick is to relax and remember to breathe from your abdomen.... Inhale and place your fingertips lightly at your lower abdomen and feel this area rising with your breath... After practicing for awhile... you will find yourself taking deep abdominal breaths throughout the day, and this alone will contribute to your health."
The Healing Voice by Joy Gardner-Gordon

Thought for the day: Sending love and prayers for healing to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and all our waters... the prayer below is from Prayer of Water written by Joan Brown, osf, Ecological Ministry of the Social Justice Office, Archdiocese of Santa Fe:

Oh compassionate God, Creator who breathed over the waters we seek forgiveness for our mindless use of water. We beg for wisdom to know how to conserve and cherish water, We ask healing for the ways that we disrespect and contaminate our sister. In this drought time we wait and watch for the gift of rain upon earth. We watch and wait for the rain of grace into our souls. Come free us from hatred, greed, fear, and our lack of love for your gifts upon earth. Transform us into living streams of water flowing green and moist with life, hope and love for earth and all peoples.

With love,
Harmony Sue

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Family Visit

May 21, 2010
Enjoying a visit from a few family members this week: my 19-year-old son Hoku, who is visiting from Albuquerque and who has just completed his first year of college, and my mom Betty (no you don't get to know her age!), out from New Jersey, coming to see me and the grandkids for a week. I feel so blessed to have a loving family as part of my life!

Song quote: "Does who we are begin with breath? Depend on form, or end with death? Strip away these roles, these names, and tell me what remains... and who we really are..."
~ Kirtana, Who You Really Are

Ceremony quote: "I saw within the center of my chest a vast, unlimited and expanding universe, as infinite as the external universe, which is only a mirror of the potential of my human heart... I fell into this vastness, and vanished..."
~ Harmony Haynie, 2007

Book quote: " your own God Self in the way that most pleases your heart, for your joy is God's fulfillment!" ~ The Dragon Doesn't Live Here Anymore by Alan Cohen

Thought for the Day: What brings you joy? What makes your heart soar? Spend some time really thinking about this question, and make a list - then make time in your busy-ness to do something from this list every day. Even if it is only for five minutes, this is a way to give yourself love every day. You will be amazed at the results!

Much love until next time!
Harmony Sue

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Starting a new blog!

Dear friends and family,
I have been inspired by many people in my life to begin this new blog. In it I will be sharing quotes and wisdom teachings coming through from the Grandmother and other wisdom sources: from song lyrics, books, ceremony participants, and some of
my own reflections. Eventually I hope to create a book of these collected teachings (the previously unpublished ones, that is), called Lessons from the Vine. I will keep you posted!

Song quote for the day:
"She leaves me smooth, smooth as a pebble, polished in the depths of love..."
~ Shimshai

Ceremony quote for the day:
"I've come to understand that fear is something my head does to itself."
~ 2006 ceremony participant in NM

Book Quote of the day:
What you feel in your heart determines what you see: perception rides upon the expression of the heart like a canoe rides upon the waters."
~ Return of the Bird Tribes, by Ken Carey

Thought for the day: What is sacred to me? What do I hold dear? What do I care about so strongly that I can't bear to see it compromised or destroyed? What would I take a stand for? Risk myself for?

* I feel passionate about protecting innocence. I would die to protect the innocence and purity of children and their right to have a childhood free from abuse of all kinds.

* I feel passionate about the opportunity to evolve, to be better, and to create a better way of life on this planet. I hold sacred the potential that each one of us has; that we each contain within our heart the seed of the sacred, the spark of the divine; and that we each deserve the opportunity to watch that seed sprout and grow (if we so choose).

* I hold sacred the right for all people to be "self-determining." This includes the right to pray with our sacred medicines.

That's all for today!
Enjoy, and let me know your thoughts by commenting.
Many continued blessings, Harmony Sue