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by Elisabet Sahtouris

written while enjoying the welcome gift of a week's retreat at Sequoia Seminar, the beautiful California redwood forest preserve and conference center of the Foundation for Global Community.

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Sarah James, enduring the heat of Brazil, was beating her huge caribou-skin drum to punctuate her own words as she told us about her Gwich'in Indian culture in the northernmost inhabited village of Alaska. I'd met her in Oregon the year before; this time she had made the trip to Rio de Janeiro for the Earth Summit of 1992. She described her people's lives before contact with the white man. Their relationship with the caribou was sacred and they were endlessly grateful for this wonderful animal that gave them everything they needed and wanted: food, bone and skin houses, boats, snowshoes, utensils, tools, clothing, drums, flutes. Their lives were rich-- rich with family and community, warm homes and clothing, plentiful food, much time for ceremony, music, dance, story telling and laughter, much reason for celebration and thanksgiving for their bounty. But when the white man came to them, he saw people living in 40-deg.-below-zero weather with only caribou to provide for their meager sustenance. He called them poor "savages." Sarah beat her caribou skin drum, sang her welcoming skin hut dance song, and smiled broadly as she shouted, "Well, then let's keep Alaska savage!"

Sarah was making a clear statement of preference for her traditional life of simplicity over the modern world that brought her people real poverty along with the terrible dependencies of debt, alcoholism and the glue-sniffing that has destroyed her own son's brain. She was also making the point that wealth is a matter of perception and priorities.

The story I'm going to tell here about my ever-transformative lifestyle has two threads interwoven: one is my decreasing dependence on material possessions and all that their acquisition and maintenance implies, the other is my increasing dependence on inner guidance and more generally on my spiritual life, without which the first would be neither fun nor rewarding. And having fun is a very important and central part of my life!

I live at present in Cusco, in the high Andes of Peru--two miles in altitude--where I am helping Runakuna (better known by their Spanish-given name Quechua) friends to develop a center for traditional Andean and Amazonian culture (Peru is 62% Amazon). Our goal is to revive the best of their ancient sciences, arts, and wisdom for the sake of their own cultural survival and for our own survival. For I truly believe that their understanding of the sacredness of nature and the necessity of keeping it healthy, their understanding of the fundamental human need for true community with each other and all other members of our ecosystems, their knowledge of how to produce natural housing, clothing and foods in fantastic abundance, their body-and-soul-stirring music produced on the simplest of handmade instruments, are precisely what we all need to understand if we are to transform our current ecological, economic, political and spiritual crisis into lives of health and happiness.

Though I live there simply, I have not "gone back to nature" to be with and learn from them, nor do I advise this for others. I believe in an integration of the best of modern technology with the best of their cultural contributions. Airplanes and computers are important parts of my world, though I hope we will soon make, use and recycle them in less destructive ways than we do at present. As for personal possessions, I strive to keep them at a minimum because I have personally come to view them, like many indigenous cultures, as more of a burden than a blessing.

Northwestern indigenous cultures developed the so-called 'potlatch' and other giveaway ceremonies to give away their excess possessions as well as to practice generosity. My personal potlatch occurred more than twenty years ago, and led gradually toward a total transformation of my life, at first on a material level, then spiritually as well. I live today in happiness and excitement about life, with very little financial income, no house or car, few expenses, virtually no negativity and endless fascinating adventures. I carry no health or other insurance, have no savings and yet feel completely secure. Many people I meet ask me to write about how I achieved this--perhaps this is the time to begin.

PHASE I: Freeing myself

A personal potlatch was my answer to what became an uncomfortable thinglut in my life. I was living like a normal middle-class North American. I had a job, supported myself and my children comfortably, owned an eight-room house full of furniture and appliances, a car, a color TV, closets full of food and clothing, many books and files, a tent, a canoe, a big fancy typewriter, childrens accoutrements and all those nameless things that pile up among the larger obvious ones and become so difficult to part with. Life revolved around work that made possible the acquisition and maintenance of all these things, a virtual glut of them and as a single parent of two fast-growing children I did work hard. Time spent socially induced mild guilt, time spent--heaven forbid--in pure thought was, well, unthinkable. The Puritan ethic combined with materialism is a cruel slave-driver.

One day, when my children had grown up, I realized I could give all this up and move to a Greek island. I did just that, and it turned out to have been a brilliant inspiration, for it launched me into a total life transition now more than twenty years underway and ever more fascinating. A woman I once met in my travels pointed out that I actually do things other people only dream about.

The first step was difficult. My youngest, a son, was unhappy, to say the least, about my selling our home. He had just graduated from high school and I offered to take him with me for a year. The worst part was undoing the 'thing glut' of eight rooms and a basement. I will never forget the sweltering hot summer day when I sat in the middle of the floor surrounded by half-packed boxes and piles of things, making endless difficult decisions about what should go where--giveaway? sale? storage? takealong? Giveaway where? to whom? Would I ever finish the process? It was so difficult and painful that I vowed then and there that I would never, ever go through this again, never own a house again, never fill one up with things, never have to undo it--and I was dead serious. I have kept this vow for over twenty years, though I still have to fight accumulation, most notably 'paper glut' which follows me no matter how I try to hide from it.

I did store my favorite good clothing, dishes and glassware, some furniture and rugs, treasured books, slides from a trip to China, my writings and other 'essential' files, a sewing machine, etc. That was a matter of economy, so I could begin again in smaller quarters when I returned. Some years later, while I was still in Greece, they were all given to the Salvation Army by a well-meaning friend who had not contacted me. I was very upset. But the loss faded, and today I am grateful not to have to think about those 'lost treasures.' Several of my friends have lost their homes with all their possessions in fires over the past few years; they, too, through lessons harder than mine, have discovered the freedom one can find in such forced release.

In Greece I learned to live simply, in a very small rented house with relatively few possessions. I stayed thirteen years, learned to gather and cut fuel wood, to wash clothes by hand, to cook more simply, to enjoy a much closer relationship with my natural surround, to enjoy Greek social life with its music and fellowship. One visiting couple went back to the U.S. apparently baffled, reporting to a mutual friend that I was living in poverty and seemed to love it. (Note the similarity with my earlier account of the white man's perception of native peoples.) Above all, in Greece I learned to undo the nagging Puritan ethic, though it was difficult for me to learn the fine Greek art of sitting and doing nothing but pass the time. I squirmed through those lessons for a long time. But eventually I was actually able to spend long times in thought without guilt.

This came most easily at sea with fishermen for days at a time. At first I spent all my time aboard the kaiki reading when I wasn't helping or preparing food. Gradually I discovered that inspiration comes best when the mind is completely lulled by the rocking waves, at peace with the endless sea and sky. Sometimes at night, when the fishermen slept soundly as cats dropped about the deck while I could find no comfortable position on the hard planks, I would sit up and contemplate my place between the stars and the bioluminescent plankton in the sea--between the macrocosm and the microcosm. These natural experiences sometimes seemed mystical and led to writing poetry, many essays and eventually my book Gaia--written first for children, then for grown-ups--about the evolution of Earth and humanity, about seeing in nature clues to solutions for our self-imposed crises.

My spiritual development moved forward during these years, but largely without any conscious awareness on my part. I had abandoned organized religion as soon as I left home at sixteen and extensive training in western science through a post-doctoral fellowship had left me intellectually without interests beyond explaining the visible world within a scientific framework, albeit at its leading edge. Nevertheless, in the early seventies, for a few years before I went to Greece, I had become so disillusioned with science for not answering big existential questions and for ignoring real human problems that I plunged myself into esoteric studies of all kinds, from Blavatsky and Gurjieff to paraphysics and parapsychology. I pursued psychic readings, attended meetings of channelers, talked with UFO followers, learned to regress people to past lives. In the end, like a famous physicist's view of waves and particles, I believed in reincarnation on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and didn't on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. At least I was learning to loosen my mind to alternative worldviews, to other dimensions, something I now consider crucially important.

Mostly I filed all this somewhere at the back of my mind while letting Greece pull me back into the visible natural world, with the still persistent need to explain how it all worked and what we humans are doing within it. In retrospect, my spiritual training at this time was in my reintegration with the natural world I had experienced with love as a small child, when I was permitted to roam nature unsupervised. When a walking stick insect fell on my arm while walking my Greek island forest, tears came to my eyes, for this was a long-lost friend. When a speared cuttlefish looked me in the eye from a pier where it squirted its last store of ink before dying, I wept again, knowing it was my own ancestor, and recorded its demise in a poem. My most conscious spiritual practice was to look up at the star-studded night sky extending my arms toward it and saying very honestly "Use me!" Somehow I believed there was a larger intelligence to hear my willingness to be of service with whatever talents I could bring to whatever it might want of me.

I was used, now that I look back. For out of my stay there came the book and a variety of invitations to speak in different places around the world, all of which seems to have impacted many lives in many ways, my own, of course, included.

PHASE II: Spirit calls me

I began to believe I was actively being guided by some greater intelligence during my personal experience of the Harmonic Convergence in 1987, two years before my book was published, at a time when I was enjoying the exploration and writing without knowing whether it would ever be of use to anyone else, much as I wanted that to be the case. It began with a free ticket to the U.S. when I had no more financial resources, having long used them up, and when I had not been out of Greece for six years. The ticket dropped out of the blue, handed to me by a stranger I'd met on a boat and helped find a hotel room on my island. It was a ticket she could not use and could not cash in.

That was the first centipede that literally dropped in on me. There were more later, especially associated with activities with or related to native people. I finally got it that the centipede is a kind of personal totem for me, since they choose you, not the other way around. Several years later, when I'd been not only to a life-changing Harmonic Convergence event in Philadelphia but was well launched on the lifestyle of travel that it and the publication of my book led to, I was walking through the pre-Columbian gold museum underneath the main square of San Jose, Costa Rica. Three tickets to Costa Rica from Greece manifested within three years from three different sources--I began to suspect I had karma there!

The atmosphere of the gold museum is dreamy with dim lighting and small spotlights on the golden objects in glass cases, many of them representing spirit guardians. In my mind I asked Quetzalcoatl whether he had ever appeared to his people in his time on Earth as a humble centipede. No sooner had I formed the question than something caught my eye across the room, something moving. I walked straight to it and found a golden centipede swinging from a thread inside a glass case. Nothing else moved, and as I continued through the museum I found no other such image.

The live centipedes and the swinging gold one are typical of the way meaningful messages come to me--not as visions, but as real, if surprising, events in the physical world, usually in the natural world. The frequency with which they come to me is in direct proportion to the time I spend in the natural world and with indigenous people who have not separated themselves from that rich intelligent world that speaks with anyone who will listen. At Harmonic Convergence, I had watched Chief Leon Shenandoah, Tadadaho of the Haudenosaunee (whom we call Iroquois) do a fire ceremony in a Philadelphia city park. As he prayed, a flock of wild geese flew over us, landed and surrounded us. When I commented to him later how beautiful that was, he replied, "When you speak to Nature correctly, She always answers."

I cannot begin to recount here the number of times I have since watched nature listen and respond to native people's ceremonies, as well as to my own, sometimes very dramatically. In our culture it would be dubbed magic; to them, and by now to me, it is normal and natural dialogue. Sometimes I have to be reminded to listen, as when I went into the Brazilian Amazon with one of its natives to learn to communicate with plants and animals, and was simply and gently reminded that they talk all the time, that our task is simply to listen and then join in, not to initiate conversation.

From Harmonic Convergence to 1991, when I returned to the U.S. from Greece, were years of travel and of my growing commitment to working with native people. The conclusions I had reached in my book were that we humans will have to learn very quickly to organize ourselves by the principles of living systems within the larger living system of our planet or go extinct. It became obvious to me that native cultures know far more about this than western industrial culture does. And one day, cutting a meeting during a conference at the Findhorn community in Scotland to take a relaxing hot bath, it hit me like a flash, right there in the tub, that this was how I was to be used from here on: to learn from native people and assist them in reviving and teaching their traditional values and practices. It was the first time I was aware of Spirit clearly calling me to do something specific.

I had brought two native friends to that conference and I made my vow openly to them. Not long afterwards the means materialized for us to found an Indigenous Science Network, with a meeting in Mexico followed by others in Calgary, Canada and Taos, New Mexico. At the end of my second trip to Calgary, paid by a man I was helping write a book, I walked into the beautiful Banff forest to say goodby before returning to Greece. I had an intense desire to see an elk, but let go of it to close my eyes in a ten-minute meditation, sitting on a rock. When I opened my eyes I was looking into the eyes of an elk, very close to me. Now my meditations are never so deep that I would not hear a large animal approaching me. I find it harder to believe that elk approached in normal fashion than to believe it simply appeared. Yet it was a real flesh-and-blood elk that ate an apple from my hand. I didn't wash its spit from my hand all day, like a woman in love that does not wash a kiss from her face.

Some time later I was talking with my friend David Abram about his apparently magical experiences with native people in Indonesia. I pressed him to tell me where he draws the line between magic and reality. "I don't," he responded, because there is no such line. Nature, at heart, is profoundly magical." The western scientist in me wrestled hard with such concepts. The whole of western culture is obsessed with drawing boundaries between fact and fiction, reality and fantasy, logic and magic. Letting go of such divisions has been hard for me, though I have been greatly assisted by living in non-western cultures without this obsession. More on this later.

In retrospect, the bathtub message in Findhorn was an important event in my transition from living by my own intent and goals to living by inner inspiration and guidance. It took the time-out hot bath to permit the message to come through my ever babbling brain. Meditation is not my forte; to this day it requires a discipline I have great difficulty mustering. What I have learned to do instead is to listen despite my active mind, to be sensitive to inner messages through its chatter and to pay attention to how I feel about people and events in my life.

Socrates was asked just before his death how he was able to see the road ahead, to take the right path in life. He replied that he never saw the way to go, but that he could always feel when he was off the right path and could thus follow it by returning to it again and again. This seemed an excellent advisory message to me as I do not see guiding visions either. I try to act upon it by paying attention to how I feel about whatever I am doing and about who I'm doing it with. Our guts are somehow our only really good 'shit detectors,' as well as our 'gold detectors.' The pursuit of objective truth is illusory, but we have the capacity to feel what is good or bad for us.

PHASE III: Reentry

My life in Greece came to be incompatible with my long travels to give talks and seminars in other parts of the world and with my commitments to native people. I spent most of my last two years there living in relative seclusion on a new island, Hydra, walking alone by day and by moonlight, watching for signs as I pondered the next stage of my life. My three trips to Costa Rica and two to Mexico had revived old interests in Central America and I began to feel South America calling to me. Alan Ereira's BBC Kogi film,{Message from the Heart of the World: the Elder Brother Speaks} had a profound effect on me when I saw it in Greece; I met Alan in London, and soon had an invitation to visit the Kogi with a friend in New York who knew them as well. But it was not yet time.

Finally I responded to a friend's invitation to come live with her in Tucson, Arizona (not far from Mexico) while I worked on reentry to so-called civilization. I had reduced my possessions in moving to Hydra--they had of course expanded to fill the island house I left in that move, but I was highly motivated and even burned two of the three novels I'd written before tackling science again--so this stage of packing was much easier. My goal is to reduce my possessions to what will fit into one cubic meter of space at least every few years. Anything more becomes burdensome in the lifestyle of frequent moves I've adopted.

Reentry shock! It was much harder than I'd anticipated, much harder than had been the entry into Greek culture. I felt like the proverbial fish out of water--sometimes literally in my hunger for the sea. During my four months in Tucson's lovely Sonora desert I continued work I'd begun with Hopi elders, especially Thomas Banyacya, to help him tell the Hopi Prophecy in the U.N. General Assembly after the 43-year effort to do so made by the Hopi and their many helpers. I found myself gravitating toward new friends with spiritual interests and I participated in two wonderful back-to-back international women's conferences in Florida.

Soon after, I let myself be lured to that state surrounded with sea by Hazel Henderson, who offered me a residency with her Institute for Future Studies in St. Augustine and walked the long beach with me as a sister while we shared ideas. I soon found my own apartment near her, then met and and began writing a book with Ed McGaa, a Lakota Indian.

Around this time the various prayers I had used to open my brief evening meditations evolved into a longer morning prayer based on the Lakota medicine wheel of six directions and consisting entirely of lists of things for which I am grateful. When I was deep in esoteric studies before going to Greece I had tried 'manifesting' things I wanted. I also learned to "be careful what you wish upon, for surely it will be thine." If one wished for money, for example, it might come as insurance payment for losing a limb. I shifted to qualifying requests, even for parking spaces, with "in a way that harms no one," but eventually I gave up on all requests and simply gave thanks for all I had. The Great Spirit, Mother Wisdom or Divine Oneness seemed to know what I needed far better than I did.

Less than a year had now passed since my "reentry" when the first real opportunity came to go to South America. I turned down my first invitation--to the Rio '92 Earth Summit, after hearing that street children were being killed to 'clean up' Rio. Then I was suddenly offered a trip to Chile as an expert advisor to an international U.N. meeting on indigenous people. While preparing to go I dreamed that I would meet 'my Amazon guide' in Rio, so I took up the invitation to go there after all, on the way back from Chile. I participated in several Earth Summit events including various indigenous peoples' gatherings. There I met several Amazon Indians, with one of whom I actually did go into the Amazon the following year, on my second trip to South America.

After the first trip, I spent an unexpected summer in a New Mexico camp with a Sufi master, Adnan Sarhan, who had been a fellow "Wisdom Keeper" in one of the Rio programs, designed to hold the spiritual energy for the global political meeting. He more or less told me I would be at his camp for the summer, an appealing idea though I had to beg off having neither time nor money to do so. Adnan simply smiled and said "you weell be there, eet ees paradise!" When I got home to Florida I found a frequent flyer ticket in the mail. I called Adnan saying I still had no money; he simply asked when to meet my flight in Albuquerque.

In Sufi camp with Adnan I took the next step in my spiritual development, learning through the 'right-brain' activities of chanting, exercising, drumming, whirling and dancing to get out of my intellectual 'left brain' and live in the moment. I lost weight on healthy organic food, got limber with exercise and learning to belly dance, slept sometimes under the stars, prayed under the open sky in the morning, and came out feeling as youthful as Adnan had promised I would. I also finished the book with 'Eagle Man' Ed and got other work done, as Adnan had also said I would. When you live fully focused in the present, instead of always in plans and efforts for the future, things begin to flow to you from that very future, it seems. Full awareness from moment to moment seems to put you in the cosmic flow where things happen without pushing.

During this summer I read Marlo Morgan's remarkable Mutant Message account of her four-month walk with a group of Australian aborigines who seemed to me to have the simplest and most profound spirituality I had ever encountered. They truly understood Divine Oneness, soul immortality and the joys of freely giving up free will to be in service to life everywhere. Their teachings have been invaluable to me and I have incorporated into my morning ritual their prayer: "I am open this day to receiving whatever is in my own highest good and that of all life everywhere." Note well that this means one must then welcome whatever happens in the confidence that it is in your own highest good, be it a fall on the face or a hot fudge sundae! Nothing helps us meet tests better than the assumption that they will lead to learning and spiritual development.

At the end of my Sufi Summer I made a new commitment to continue exercising with a personally-assembled and pleasant ten-minute ritual made of Japanese, Chinese and Tibetan exercises, to trust my intuition and follow my inner guidance. The latter really put me to the test! At the beginning of the summer I had planned to move to Key West in the fall, to be near dolphins and to raise money for a whale research institute on whose boat I hoped to sail eventually. I knew that whales would come into my life sooner or later, but as soon as I got to key West, directly from Sufi camp, my inner guidance changed everything! First I was sent to do a Quincentennial Columbus Day 1992 meditation by full moon on a mountain in New York State's Hudson Valley where I was born; then I was sent to stay with a dying friend upriver from that mountain, and while at her house I got the strong inner message to move to Washington D.C. Having had a rather negative image of the nation's capitol, I protested vehemently, telling the inner voice I could hardly do that without home or job there. In a matter of days I was offered a free apartment in D.C. for six weeks. Shocked by this confirmation of my mission, I went.

PHASE IV: The way up is down

There I was, in the midst of a big Eastern city, in a very nice apartment with only my summer Sufi camp wardrobe and a battered old tent as my luggage. I had no resources to go to St. Augustine to repack or to send for my things, which were packed up in Hazel's garage, waiting to be shipped to Key West.

I jumped to the conclusion I'd been sent to Washington to work in some ecological/political capacity and set out to find a job. A Philadelphia friend equipped me with lovely Washington-appropriate clothing she'd outgrown, so that need, too, was magically met. Things would have seemed totally magical except for my troubling failure to find a job. Nothing worked, however flexible I tried to be in my pursuit of employment. I lived from hand to mouth as frugally as anyone could, stretching the small fees or collections from talks given here and there. When the six weeks in the apartment were up, I had to ask my daughter to fly me to California for Christmas, not knowing where I would live after that, or on what. Nevertheless, I returned to D.C. after New Year with the conviction that something would break for me. Within hours after I stepped off the plane, thinking I'd have to beg couchspace from someone, I held in my hand a letter containing an overdue check worth a few weeks' groceries and the key to another beautiful apartment, offered without my asking for it!

To make a long story shorter, my Washington phase was about lessons in trust--faith that the Cosmos would provide if I set my mind correctly 'in the moment' and in gratitude for what I did have. At any given moment I had my health and had not missed a meal or slept outdoors. I just had to learn not to flinch when all my financial resources were at an end; I just had to shake off my embarassment and guilt at my 'failure' to live as a professional working person, recognizing that I had some kind of a strange scholarship to a school of spirit. Let me add that I sometimes still have twinges of guilt when someone seems to be shaking their head at me for living without a proper ' Ph.D. job,' home, insurance, etc. And sometimes I do this to myself, asking if it is not my obligation to be staying more visible, publishing more books, giving more speeches, teaching more seminars. It is only the increasing strength of my inner guidance that stills these voices. The world is in transition and each of us must march to his or her own drummer, though ever cognizant of what role one plays within the larger communal scheme of things.

During President Clinton's inauguration I volunteered to serve at the Homeless Ball. And my fear gradually turned to amusement as I realized that if it came to being a bag lady I could always write a manual on living in the streets! I knew how to find bargains in thrift shops--my London Fog spring coat and my beautiful cherry red wool winter coat had together cost a total of ten dollars--and I knew one could attend foreign embassy receptions by greeting the ambassador with "How good to see you again, Dr. X!" He would be the one embarrassed at not remembering. I even reasoned one could pick up a cheap hotplate and plug it into the sidewalk outlets for Christmas lights to cook pigeons in the park. Once, when a street person asked me for a handout, I laughed and turned my empty wallet inside out for him, offering him the newspaper I'd just picked up in the metro I'd ridden with my last dollar. I doubt he believed I really had no more money.

The whole point of the exercise was to know deep inside that I had whatever resources it would take to survive, and even to survive in style and good spirits. And only when I really believed that, really stopped flinching when I was down to my last cent, did the tests stopped happening. For that is what they were: spiritual tests of faith. Some of my friends have lost their houses and all their possessions, as I mentioned earlier. Anyone asking for spiritual growth can be sure they will be tested one way or another. As my friend Carolyn Myss says, "You can't invite the angels into your house saying you'll serve them and then complain about the tasks they give you."

The funniest part was when I went to rent my own apartment. I'd suddenly been paid $2,500 for a single lecture and I knew exactly where I was meant to live. I applied for a lease before my paycheck arrived. Imagine reading my application--no job, no work history for fifteen years, no previous rental agreement, no bank account, no credit cards, no nothing! When I called a few days later, I was told I'd been refused. I asked what their shortest lease was--three months--and offered to pay the entire rent in advance. I was told they did not do business that way, that the decision could not be changed. I was so sure I was meant to live in that very building that I did not hang up. Neither did the man at the other end. We held the silence until suddenly he said, "Wait, wait, some new information has just come in.... you can have a six-month lease." I never asked where that new information came from; I simply went to sign the lease.

It was a big, bright, sunny efficiency apartment just four blocks from the White House- my first own home since my return to the U.S. two years earlier! I was thrilled. I had come to love Washington D.C. for its beauty, its cultural diversity, and the endless free things to do there. I know of nowhere else in the world where one can get as rich a free education. I volunteered at many conferences and thus got a crash course in many subjects from international development to conscious birthing. I attended public meetings of the President's Council on Sustainable Development, even getting the opportunity to speak at one of them; I gave talks at EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and at the World Bank. I went to environmental meetings, participated in soiree discussions with interesting people and went to embassy receptions, generally making myself a part of Washington's cosmopolitan life. I also got involved with hosting an annual Native Prayer Vigil between the Washington Monument and the White House. But I still marvel that the essence of it all, the reason I was sent there, was to learn not political but spiritual lessons!

PHASE V: The call of the Andes!

I woke suddenly one morning in May, having heard a voice that said "Go to the June solstice festival in Peru with Mazatl!" No visual images, just that voice. Mazatl is the Aztec sacred musician friend I'd taken to Findhorn. I called a mutual friend, Vanda, in California to ask if she knew whether he was by chance going to Peru for solstice? She said "Yes, so am I; are you coming with us?" I replied that I'd love to, having dreamed I should go, but had no money to do so." She laughed and said, "You'll be coming; six of us had the dream, including Mazatl who cancelled a concert with Peter Gabriel to come with us!" Two days later a check big enough for the trip showed up in my mail. I spent it all to go.

Between the dream and the reality I was scheduled to go to Ireland to speak at the International Transpersonal Association meetings in Killarney. There I met a man who heard my talk and later invited me to teach biology seminars while following whales a year later, aboard the ocean-going, whale-watching sailboat of his California-based marine biology research institute. I still held the desire to be with the whales, but I had let go my efforts to do so. Again and again I have been shown that this is the essence of what we call magic: the paradoxical focus of desire or intent while at the same time letting go of the outcome. It isn't easy to desire and let go of the desire simultaneously, but when we achieve it, it works!

Peru was wonderful--Cusco, the colorful crowds of the June solstice festival (winter there, with crisp bright sunny days), awesome Machu Picchu, the splendor of Lake Titicaca, pre-Inkan Tihuanaco in Bolivia. While walking a street in Cusco one day shortly before we left, the inner voice spoke once again, telling me to come back there in the fall for six months or so. I was reluctant--alone? in the rainy season? knowing almost no one and not speaking Spanish? with what resources? I fought the message for twenty-four hours, then succumbed and announced my plan to do so.

Need I say the money showed up?--a small grant I'd applied for so long ago I'd long given up on it . It permitted me to do preparatory work for a proposed television series the rest of the summer and to live very frugally for eight months in Peru on what was left over.

PHASE VI: Arriving at the beginning

It felt like home from the moment I arrived in Cusco the second time. I now noticed how much its streets resembled those of Greek islands, with its red-tiled roofs, whitewashed walls, stone stairways. Like Hydra, except the donkeys were now llamas. The city is lovely with its incredible Inka walls topped by Spanish architecture, its squares with flowers and fountains, the Quechua craftspeople vending their wares. I quickly found a small room I could turn into kitchen, bedroom, office and living room. The bath, outside, was shared; I looked across a garden to a view over the city and across to the mountains on the other side.

I saw the magnificent total eclipse in November, worked hard at learning Spanish by making myself read library books on history and making friends with local people instead of tourists. I had magical encounters with them and many of my evenings were spent listening to Andean music and dancing, making friends with native musicians. I made friends as well at the university and was given an e-mail address to facilitate communications. I explored and meditated in sacred sites, sleeping twice inside the exquisite ruins of Machu Picchu.

I worked on my dreams and succumbed to requests to teach others to do so, in their Spanish language! I helped various people with English translations and taught English to some Peruvian guides. In general, I tried to make myself useful wherever I could.

Thinking at first I had come to write a book bridging the western physicists' new understanding of 'hyperspace' (other-dimensional reality) with Andean cosmology, it soon proved presumptuous to think I could understand either side of that duality in a few months. It also came clear that I was there to get out of my intellectual head and into my heart, to make further spiritual progress. The Andes are a place of very strong energies, both positive and negative; it seems no one goes there without being transformed. Some say it is a place to clean up karma quickly; it does seem that opportunities to learn lessons are thrown at people there thick and fast. Some get sick and run from it; others welcome these opportunities. I was among the latter, thriving on the thin, clear air, feeling energized by it, being open to learning from experiences of all kinds, even from being strangled and robbed. One friend died there and another tried to commit suicide in front of my eyes. I mention these tests only to give a balanced account of a marvelous experience in a place that has become my home. My friend Tanai, who visited for three weeks, commented as she left that the real Peru made the Celestine Prophecy look like kindergarten!

I met a very special fourteen-year-old boy named Puma Quispe Singona, more about whom later, and his eighty-five year-old teacher/grandfather, Maximo Singona Puma, a medicine-priest and 'midwife' in the ancient tradition whose ceremonies have helped connect me with the Andean Apus, the great mountain spirits who came from the stars to Earth long ago, to teach the people how to live.

My greatest opportunity for service was in helping various native friends whose organizations were struggling to preserve Andean culture get together in a coalition we now call the Casa Andina-Amazonica. With some of them I made a difficult lengthy trek over a 5,000 meter high snow-covered pass to visit a traditional community never yet found by even an anthropologist. Because of e-mail I was able to share my written account of the trip, photos included, with native friends who are on-line in the North. This happy marriage of indigenous culture and modern technology is at the heart of my dreams for a better world.

Part of our coalition is devoted to restoring Inka agriculture, which did the finest and most extensive agricultural experimentation and development in the history of the world, as well as to reviving traditional medical knowledge and plants. Other parts document the knowledge and wisdom of elders over a hundred years of age, natural techniques of dying, knitting and weaving yarn, and collecting the wide variety of instruments and music of the Andes. Central to the Andean culture is the concept of ayni, inadequately translated as 'reciprocity.' It means community in the fullest sense of reciprocal relations among its members, all sharing work and play, all contributing willingly to each other's wellbeing. Such social wisdom and practice is as important to preserve and teach as the material aspects of culture. As Nicolas Aguilar Sayritupac, an Aymara Indian from the Lake Titicaca region, has written:

The human being of the West has abandoned being human and has turned himself into an individual: man, woman, child, elder, separate. Community, the ayllu--the essential unity of humanity has died in them. The existence of Western people and society has been destroyed by their egoism.

On the contrary, we Indians have things well in our heads, our feelings in order, determined to do what we can; it is for this reason that we do not go away much from our home and family, for this reason that we have kept ourselves away from the equivocal ideas of the men who find themselves in the place where the Sun hides itself.

[After describing his pain at the efforts of Western people to destroy Andean cultures]... I was desperate and I came back to see in May, and in all the nights of the year, the four beautiful brilliant stars [of the Southern Cross] with their two star guides, and remembered the nights many years ago, when my father, looking with his good eyes, said to me: Look at the Chacana... now be certain that if the West wants to totally destroy our community and our culture it will first have to destroy the Cross of May in the heavens. The Aymaras are eternal people.

That is the strength of the Andean spirit which holds me there and makes me want to serve it for its own sake and in the interest of my own culture, which has so much to learn from it. We have as yet no financial support for building our Andean Cultural Center, but I have written a screenplay as a possible source of such funding and continue to keep my eyes open for other sources.

Why a screenplay instead of a funding proposal? Because the plot came to me in an Andean meditation, because it teaches Andean ecology within a reincarnational Inka romance, because it was far more fun to write than a proposal. I have learned--as I said in my part of the video The Unfolding Story--that if one wants to change the world, one must have fun doing it or no one else will want to do it with us.

Another step I have taken in the dissemination of Andean culture and wisdom was to bring Puma, my now fifteen-year-old Runa/Quechua friend and heir of his grandfather's tradition to the United States to speak at an international conference in Washington D.C. and to meet native people from the North. I began without any material resources, yet everything needed and everything we could possibly have desired materialized for this wonderful month-long trip from Peru and across the United States. Everyone whose life Puma touched felt his heart impact and was changed. He is a very special responsibility for me in an ongoing way, a spiritual son. False prophets are easier to encounter these days than those who truly come from the heart.

I truly believe the Andes are growing rapidly in importance as a leading spiritual center for the whole Earth. Tibetan lamas are coming there to do ceremonies, saying the energy is shifting from the masculine Himalyas to the feminine Andes at this time. Here in the United States for a few months to gather resources for my return, literally everyone I meet greets the news of where I live with "Oh, I've always wanted to go there!" or "I must go there soon; it is such a deep call in my life!" This confirms my view of its importance in this major shift we are all experiencing in our own ways, and increases my gratitude at being able to serve humanity there as well as here.

PHASE VII: Onward into joy

I feel that my journey up to now is only the beginning. It is a time of such rapid transition that we can all lead many lifetimes within one. I find that my worldview expands almost daily; I remain an open-minded seeker and a server at once. While I am not good at taking orders from humans, I accept the guidance of Spirit more than willingly, for life has never been better than under its auspices!

My excitement at life grows ever stronger; my health as I round the bend to my sixtieth birthday has never been better. I thank all my cells and all my subtle bodies daily for keeping me healthy, for I have learned to know my body can heal whatever may ail it from time to ever-rarer time. I have learned from indigenous people to save time for rest and play; I do not ever suffer burnout (a nasty western-cultural disease); I have learned from spirit to shelve any task that does not flow and find another that does. A larger intelligent system surrounds us and works for us--call it by any name you choose--if we acknowledge and let it.

Looking back over my life I am grateful to a father who taught me to feel secure even when material resources were slim, to a mother who let me explore nature on my own, for the conviction they both held that their children would succeed through their own resourcefulness. The hard part has been to gain the courage of my own convictions in the face of established authorities: political, religious, intellectual or other. Even a natural rebel seeks approval. Only slowly have I learned to trust the inner voice, to value and follow its guidance even in the face of disapproval from the old authorities, many of whom are rapidly becoming obsolete. If we are to move into the future, we need to shed the baggage of the past whether it be material or cultural and take along only what serves us well, such as the ancient laws of harmony and balance indigenous people have followed all along, such as the timeless lesson that only love is stronger than all the negativities put together.

Adventure lies ahead for us all, without doubt. The crisis is enormous in every direction, but our eyes are opening to solutions and help is coming to us from other dimensions as fast as we are open to receiving it. Our planet and all the multi-dimensional universe is alive and on the side of those who want to keep themselves and all of it healthy and happy!

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