Recovering An Indigenous View of the World: Reflections on A Cree Sundance – Post 1

* How can a person immersed in western society recover an indigenous worldview? What are the ways that indigenous and non-indigenous people can build bridges of mutual appreciation and understanding? Can building such bridges help create shifts and a transformation toward a more holistic, ecological, spiritual, resilient and life affirming approach?

Overview

In this series of posts, of which this one is the first, I share about my experience of participating in a Cree Sundance near Calgary, Canada. POST 1: Rather than going right into describing the experience I reflect on the generative and challenging tensions that are part of crossing cultural boundaries and world views and why it is important to explore them. POST 2: Here I describe what I experienced as part of allowing myself to become deeply immersed into the Cree Sundance. POST 3: Finally, I speak about my personal intentions for going and how it is deepening my inner healing journey and personal growth. It explores the theme of forgiveness without approval in the face of misuse of power and authority.

POST 1: RECOVERING AN INDIGENOUS VIEW OF THE WORLD

Inclusion: A Necessary Step toward Collaboration

A few weeks ago, […]

Harvesting Liminal Songlines – Honoring the Aboriginal Tradition of Australia

Uluru at Dusk, Central Desert, Australia

This past fall I went live with my new website giselawendling.com and blog Liminal Pathways. Liminal Pathways is also the title of a framework I have developed based on my evolving understanding of rites of passages as an archetypal framework for understanding human systems change. The word liminal comes from the Latin and means threshold or margin. It alludes to the in-between period in a change process where we are no longer the old and not yet the new, when the transformative process is the most active. The Liminal Pathways blog features essays on this topic.

In this post I introduce 13 essays that are very special to me and which I originally wrote for my Liminal Songlines blog. I these essays I reflect on my experiences exploring the spiritual healing tradition of the Aboriginal people of Australia while I was living there from 2009 to 2012. I write about the timeless wisdom of the Aboriginal people, their ceremonial practices and art, what they can teach us about relating to the land, […]

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. […]

Hunting for Honey Ants

During one of my visits to the Central Desert to participate in the women’s ceremonies, several Aboriginal women went hunting for honey ants and took a friend of mine and me along. Before we left I knew very little about these ants except that they had a great cultural significance to the Aboriginal people. In the middle of the day we spent several hours out bush in the sweltering heat hunting and  digging for these ants and what we received in return was priceless. Aside from tasting the sweet nectar of these honey ants, I was able to witness the refined perceptive powers of Central Desert people, hear a story that sensitized me to the pain of Aboriginal women, appreciate the nourishing power of one of their bush foods, and see how Aboriginal symbols as found in many of their paintings reflect what we can observe in nature. Shortly after this particular trip to the desert I made the painting above to capture the story of our experience that day.

As we took off for the hunt, the burning sun penetrated our bodies and the red sand drenched in sunlight radiated heat […]

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 […]

That Old Man

In only a few minutes, this video conveys in powerful images and simple language how the Aboriginal people and their ‘country’, their art and their stories, and their songs and ceremonies are part of one another and, in fact, inseparable. Watching this film, I am reminded of Gregory Bateson’s comment that the aesthetic, the whole and the sacred evoke each other.

Having just returned from the Central Desert the second time and participating in Women’s Business at some very special sacred sites, I have begun to grasp in a new way what the notion of homeland or ‘country’ may mean to the Aboriginal people and how healing the land is healing ourselves.

Enjoy this glimpse into a completely different kind of human relationship to the natural environment, visible or not.

This post was originally published in my blog Liminal Songlines. The intention of that blog was to help capture my initial understanding of the spiritual healing traditions of the Aboriginal peoples of Australia while I lived in Australia from 2009 to 2012. Much of what I learned there is relevant to my continuing explorations of […]

Women’s Business, Women’s Ceremony – Two

Sacred Women’s Business

Women’s Business is sacred business and it is secret business. During the ceremony important cultural knowledge and sacred practices are shared and the agreement is that participants do not talk about the particulars of the ceremonies with those who have not participated in them before.  However, we were given permission to share about the going-ons of the visiting women’s camp since we were not doing ceremony with Aboriginal elders there. We were also asked not to take any photos while in either camp and to refrain from journaling, especially notes about the going-ons in the ceremony. We were asked to come with an empty mind and to be present to what is. I have often found photo-taking during sacred activities to be somehow disturbing the feel or energy of what was unfolding in the moment and refraining from journaling helped me stay more present with what was moving through me and before me rather than spending time in reflection and analysis. (I will share a few comments about the above painting later in this post.)

I have made […]

Women’s Business, Women’s Ceremony – One

Ceremonies are a collective healing response to the elemental and existential experiences of being human. As we dance, pray, chant, make offerings, surrender, and feel heard and witnessed by one another and the great mystery of which all spirits, all gods, and all that is divine are a part, our shared humanity becomes visible, and our place within this great weave of life is affirmed. Ceremony is healing and an enactment of wholeness.

The Sacred Centa: Uluru (Ayers Rock)

Last March I joined a group of nearly 30 women who traveled from across the country and overseas to the Central Desert to be in ceremony with local Aboriginal women. We spent four nights and five days camping out at a sacred women’s site about 20 minutes away from Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock). Uluru is the most sacred site to the Aboriginal people of that area and over the years Uluru has become the most dominant symbol of the Central Desert as well as a tourist destination for many travelers. However, for most outsiders the area is only accessible by flying into the small airport […]

Dreamtime or Time for Dreaming – One

I made the painting, Incubation: Lizard Dreaming, two months after I arrived in Australia. Making this painting was my first exploration of aboriginal symbolism and mythology and during the process the painting became a reflection of the rather ambiguous state I have been in. I want to share with you a few insights I gained into aboriginal art, symbolism and Dreamtime, as well as about this painting and myself. I share these small discoveries with sincerity as well as with a sense of humility because I am an eager and earnest learner, and because I otherwise would not muster the courage to reveal to you the cultural and artistic naïveté with which I approached the composition of this painting. Little did I know that in the end the painting turned out to be a depiction of an American lizard incubating the vision of a German woman amidst the shifting sands of the Australian desert.

 

Lizards

I was drawn to include a lizard in a painting for a couple of reasons. I had been intrigued by the many tiny lizards in our backyard and that there are over 520 species of lizards in Australia. […]