Recovering an Indigenous View of the World: The Sundance – Post 2

The Sundance Ceremony of the North American Great Plains People (which includes territories of the Cree people in Canada) is a prayer for life, the renewal of the world and thanksgiving. Dancers make spiritual and physical offerings to ensure the well-being of others.

Overview

In Post 1, I wrote about the possibility of recovering an indigenous view of the world and how building bridges of understanding between indigenous and non-indigenous people can help create shifts toward a more holistic, ecological, spiritual, resilient and life affirming approach.

In this post, The Sundance, I share my personal experiences participating in the ceremony. I describe shifts in my awareness, my felt sense, and the energetic movements I experienced. Several times, I apply what I have come to understand from my long-time exploration of ceremonial practices to my experience of the Sundance. I also share a few comments about the traditional meaning and purpose of the Sundance while trying to avoid details that I feel are not mine to share, especially as as a non-Cree and non-Native

I offer this post to give a sense of what it is like to encounter an indigenous view of the world by participating […]

Working with Crucibles of Change

Recently I was invited by Meridian University, where I also teach, to host a dialogue via videoconference on Crucibles of Change: Guiding Liminal Processes in Organizational Life. Here is the link to the video stream.

To me the crucible is a generative image. Once we come to understand what a crucible is, we begin to see it everywhere, especially in our work as change agents.

I invited Alan Briskin, author of Collective Wisdom, David Sibbet, my colleague at The Grove Consultants International, and Bethe Hagens, who I came to know years ago at an Anthropology of Consciousness conference. As an anthropologist, exploring liminality has been a significant part of Bethe’s research and academic work. The four of us had a wonderful dialogue. Here is the video link.

The Grove intensive Designing and Leading Change that David Sibbet and I lead explicitly explores how to identify and shape crucible-type situations and events in larger change processes. The Liminal Pathways Framework which we introduce in this three-day workshop indicates the […]

Rites of Passages and Wisdom Emerging

A couple of months ago I participated in the Wisdom Emerging retreat at IONS with Alan Briskin, Lauren Artress and Angeles Arrien. I began making the painting above during the retreat’s expressive arts process and completed it a couple of weeks later. The painting symbolizes significant aspects of the rite of passage that I am currently in. Here are my thoughts about the making of the painting and what it represents. As always I welcome your comments and questions.

Technique and Australian Symbolism

The painting is made within the art tradition of the Eastern Arrernte People of the Central Desert in Australia. I have been very inspired by the art of Kathleen Kemarre Wallace. She uses extremely bright colors and very intricate designs to tell the story of her people and her land. It is worth mentioning here that there are tight protocols about who can produce Aboriginal art. I have had to deal with this issue since I began exploring Aboriginal art making when I first moved to Australia. It is very important to state here that my art is not Aboriginal art. My art has primarily been an inquiry into Aboriginal culture. […]

Altered States or Altered Realities

When I first became introduced into indigenous spiritual healing traditions, I began to experience things that were out of the ordinary and outside of the rules of modern western conventions that I grew up with. Many of these extraordinary experiences deeply resonated with me and somehow they felt familiar. There was a part in me that recognized the wisdom, knowledge and healing powers present in these ancient practices. However when trying to articulate and research my experiences, I often wondered whether or not what I was experiencing was real or imagined. Was I actually entering different realities, worlds and places or did I simply shift into an altered state of consciousness or awareness? After some research into these questions I realized that whether something is called altered ‘state’ or alternate ‘reality’ depends on the cosmology or ontology that one uses to understand, interpret or relate to an experience.

Cosmology & Ontology

A cosmology is a set of beliefs about how the universe works and ontology seeks to define the nature of being, existence and reality. Both of these belief systems can vary dramatically from one culture to the next and profoundly shape how […]

Ceremony As A Collective Healing Response

A few posts ago I shared my perception that ceremonies are a collective healing response to the existential experiences of being human. This clarity crystallized when I participated earlier this year in Women’s Business (Ceremonies) with Aboriginal Elder Women in the Central Desert. Previous experiences with indigenous ceremonies elsewhere, helped shape the foundations for this understanding.

Ceremonies in general are a way to step out of the ordinary goings-on of daily life to enter a sacred space for personal and collective healing through praying, singing, dancing, silence and the laying on of hands. Ceremonial practices generate movement toward wholeness and wellness by removing the blockages and heavy energy that we accumulate as part of living daily life. These blockages and layers of heavy energy prevent us from feeling and recognizing one’s belonging to this world, that we are an integral part of the great weave of life, and that the living energy travels among, through and between us.

My experience in the Central Desert reflected and confirmed other experiences I have had with indigenous people: in Africa with the Kalahari Bushman, with the Andean indigenous People of Peru, and with Native American ceremonies […]

Rites of Passages: Pivoting at the Edge with Spirit

Please feel free to download Understanding Rites of Passages. for a more conceptual overview, its traditional use and application to our contemporary experiences of change. It also provides a few essential references.

 

Change is central to the human experience. Its patterns and rhythms follow ancient archetypal processes that can be observed wherever a death and birth cycle takes place—in nature or the human community. Indigenous traditions have a rich repertoire of knowledge about these archetypal processes and have developed practices that support individuals and communities to more fully and consciously engage, guide and work with the momentum that is present in change. Rites of passage is one of those archetypal processes. Compared to many contemporary models of change this model acknowledges the centrality of the spiritual nature that is at the core of transformative change.

Recently I led a session on Rites of Passage for the Sydney’s Facilitators Network that was entitled Change Agents at the Gates of Transformation: Using an Ancient Approach to Harness the Vital Forces in Contemporary Experiences of Change. I designed the session so that the participants could explore an experience of change […]

Dreamtime or Time for Dreaming – Two

Dreamtime

Sometime after the painting Incubation: Lizard Dreaming was done, I looked online to find any references to animal totems in Australian Aboriginal culture. This is when I gained my first real understanding of the concept of Dreamtime. The English word ‘Dreamtime’ is a significant idea that tries to capture how aboriginal people relate to their period of creation that are expressed in their many tribal and land specific creation stories. Generally, Dreamtime refers to the time of creation, the time before time, when the world came into being. It was during the creation period when ancestral beings created landforms such as lagoons and mountain ranges as well as the first plants and animals.

Aboriginal people often interpret dreams as a memory of things that happened during this Creation Period and consider dreams as a means to transport us back to Dreamtime. The term “Dreamtime” in Aboriginal mythology is not really about a person having a dream or a vision but rather a dream is a reference to this Creation Period. Given this understanding, for example, this incubation time in my life, where I am nurturing a vision for my future and receive […]

Direct Knowing

Several days ago I was reading Yorro Yorro: Everything Standing Up Alive. Mowaljarlai, an Aboriginal Elder from Australia and co-author of the book, shares through describing his personal experiences and the many stories he tells how he directly interacts with nature and how the natural world  teaches him and can teach us and feel fully alive.

Mowaljarlai’s description landed for me inside a perspective I’d cultivated studying with Juan Nunez del Prado, a Peruvian Mestizo and p’aqo (shaman/priest) several years back. I am struck by how Mowaljarlai and Juan help us see how we can know the world through our senses, and what phenomenologists call direct encounter with nature, a way of knowing that is unmitigated by the intellect.

In the Western world, a direct way of knowing has largely been undervalued and our capacity for relying on and working with our subjective experience has been greatly diminished. For centuries, with the rise of industrialization, we have put emphasis on knowledge processes that rely mostly on objective and scientific observation, and conceptual representation rather than subjective, embodied experience. My own work managing the tensions in our knowledge processes between subjective to objective now […]