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Experiencing the World Around Us

Come with me on a journey…walking into the world of the Mescalero Apache’s homeland of the Chihuahuan Desert of Southern New Mexico. I arrive at the mouth of Jadnut?udebiga, Home of the Bat. The cavern’s mouth wears an ancient story painted on the wall of her mouth. Today, she is called Carlsbad Cavern and significantly called one of 7 Wonders of the Natural World. The ancestors say her mouth is a doorway to the spirit realm.  

Come with me as I descend vertically, 750 feet into the Mother Earth. Treking a mile and half on a winding, dark pathway down, down, down I'm aware that this is the finale with darkness, until Father Sun begins his return into the darkness at Fall Equinox. 

Great Council of Protectors

The ancient Summerian story of Innana's journey to the underworld accompanied me as I made the descent. The mythopoetic story gives meaning to reaching another passage way in life into elderhood.

When I arrive at the deepest possible ground of Jadnut?udebiga, although the bottom of this chasm is still far below me. Startled with the dim light outlining beings in The Big Room, I see the Great Council of Protectors sitting patiently staring out into this abyss. I'm comforted by their presence as they overlook the Grandmothers and a Council of Bears and Beings, all of whom are gathered in large circles.  A sign on the trail explains in scientific terminology that these Protectors are stalactites and stalagmites. There's little room for the realm of imagination. I'm told that the formations are the result of dripping water from cracks in the ceiling from the surface of the earth. Up to fifty-four different minerals create them over thousands and millions of years, some are ancient beyond ancient. I experience these living ancient beings as our first ancestors. 

Council of the Bears and Beings Other-Than-Human

Imagination is not a concept in many of the 6,500 languages of the world. By industrial culture’s standards, imagination has been whittled away to scientific facts. On the contrary. Nature informs the world as living, having soul, spirit, a voice, a mirror for ourselves, and as teacher. I speak, "In’Lakesh" to all around me here. This Mayan expression means “I am another of thyself/your self/you”.  I imagine that 80 percent of the world’s population sees the world as alive. Before monotheistic religions, people were animists. But how often did you hear as a child, “Oh, that’s just your imagination”. At every Animal as Helper class I teach I hear people's consternation about their "imagination" not being real: "Could I have really had this experience?" they ponder. Doubt leaves little but the material world to inform our deep inner longing for connection. Speaking is an expression of how we think. The post-modern western way of seeing the world naturally objectifies every living thing and sorts what's animate from inanimate. Therefore, the design of the world is relegated to pieces and parts, some things useful and others not. We throw away what of no longer useful. Does anyone ask where "away" is? From an animistic point of view speaking for the living takes concerted mindfulness. 

The worlds beneath us and the worlds above us inform us of what is within us. 

Council of Grandmothers

The ancient ones touched me deeply as I descend, making it very clear that they watch the surface people from their great depths in a similar way that the stars, moon and sun watch over us. In many creation stories, humans ascended from the lower world to the surface of earth.  And, humans also descend to the lower world at times of crisis and need to reform and experience a rite of passage into a new phase of life. The journey continued with dreaming that night of underground beings finding their way to the surface. Upon awakening the sensation in my body told me that I needed to be prepared.

We are here to know and to be in balance with these worlds, harmonizing our walk in life.

Just a week before the underworld journey, I laid back in a comfy seat at the Boulder Planetarium looking into the night sky. My friend Joseph Medicine Robe's flute carried a haunting melody of sacredness to the arranged experience. His prayers readied all present for what we were about to see. Constellations moved according to the Sun and Moon and Seasons above us. The Star Map of the Lakota Nation's pilgrimage pathway was super-imposed over the milky way and stary night. Awe rose in my chest at the wonder of this deep connection with each star formation. Set into a deeply honoring circle we learned of the constellation ceremonies: Tetaun Oyate: Wichapi Wakan Wo’Ecun. This Ceremonial

Sky Map has informed the movement of The People for thousands of years. In this circle of life today, following the position of the stars, The People circumnavigate the land of the Black Hills, knowing exactly when to be at sacred places for ceremony and when to hunt the buffalo. The constellations in the sky mirror the sacred places the Lakota call home. As above, so below.

Now the feminine and masculine come to an equal, balanced time at Spring Equinox to inform our own balance within and without.

These celestial ceremonies in the Black Hills begin around the Spring Equinox with pilgrimage, prayer, then sweat lodges, buffalo hunting and the Sundance, as the cycle continues after the long and dark blanket of winter silence. The Ceremonial Sky Maps are from a website: Lakota Star Knowledge 2, Constellations, Names, Maps.

We are learning with each ceremony on the cycle of the Sun and Moon and Mother Earth changes, with mindfulness, we can transform our western objectifying story into a living relationship with the universe.

Now, we reach the time when the long darkness is overcome by light.  Now the feminine and masculine come to an equal, balanced time that informs us. Let us listen to the Song of the world harmonizing with birdsong while the snakes and cats and bears come out of their homes in the Earth. This is the time when the entire world sings the Song of Creation.


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