Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Eagle and The Condor Fly As One

My work with the Tayrona people has barely just begun. After three months of travel, circumambulating the Eastern United States, studying Spanish in Costa Rica, traveling to Nicaragua to the volcanic Ometepe Islands in Lake Nicaragua, and I finally landed in Tayrona in the northern Andes of Colombia. I am now back in Santa Fe, New Mexico, digesting my experiences in the realms of the Indigenous world of the last couple years— and figuring out my next move.

Leading up to this work I have uncovered the truth of my own identity as an American. I don’t mean a US citizen, I mean a citizen of this hemisphere called the Americas—one who comes from the land of the Eagle. The peoples of the United States believe "America" refers to the US alone. All three Americas claim this name. My personal story is a small facet of the rich tapestry of Turtle Island, America, and of awakening to my true identity as an American. It is tied to America the Goddess of Peace, known as the Statue of Freedom who stands on the dome of the Capitol in Washington DC. It is tied to the Prophecy of the Eagle of the North and the Condor of the South flying together as equals to restore balance and harmony to the world. It is tied to the survival of Indigenous cultures and ultimately to world peace.

For me world peace is not only a cause, it is a spiritual path. Embarking upon it has enriched my life beyond measure. I believe the path of peace not only enriches life, it is the essential component for the realization of our humanity and ultimately our salvation.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to serve on the planning committee for a World Peace Conference in New Mexico that was sponsored by a Senator Shannon Robinson from the New Mexico Legislature. This was a hotly contested conference, seen by many anti-war protestors as a ploy designed to put a new face on this State which is known as the Nuclear Weapons Capitol of the World. Those of us in the pro-peace movement determined that this opportunity was a once-in-a-lifetime fluke of chance that we should strive to get all the mileage we could out of this gift from New Mexico’s legislative body.

I invited to this conference a delegation from Colombia, an Arhuaco man, Asdrubal Torres, from the Tayrona culture with a translator, Juan Gavieria, the curator of the peace art gallery of Centro Colombo Americano in Medellin. I became connected with these people in years past because I had been invited as a communications artist to open peace-through-culture conversations with performance art in Colombia, where myself and Dominique Mazeaud (a heartist) had the opportunity to co-create ritual performance art with two Arhuaco men from the Tayrona culture.

At the World Peace Conference, a separate council materialized that consisted of Indigenous people. I took my seat on the outside of the circle to listen to their discussion. At the end of the Conference I determined that the most important offering I could make to the cause of World Peace was to use my skills as a communications artist to serve the Indigenous world.

Probably, as a result of this as yet unspoken personal commitment, Asdrubal, my Arhuaco friend, invited me to participate on the Journey for Peace and Dignity in the fall. This prayer run has been conducted every four years since 1992 in fulfillment of a prophecy from the Andes that has been ripening for 500 years—since 1492. When the Eagle of the North and the Condor of the South fly together as equals, a renaissance will bring balance and harmony to this hemisphere and the planet. The Journey for Peace and Dignity is a prayer run connecting the Indigenous world of North, South, and Central Americas to serve to empower the Indigenous world. The runners start at the extreme northern and southern parts of the Americas, the tip of Alaska and Tierra del Fuego in Argentina, laying down prayers and thanksgiving through the length of the entire continent, carrying prayer staffs from the Indigenous Nations, holding circles in the communities and sacred sites. At the end of the run, when the staffs of Eagle and the Condor meet, the runners share days of ceremony, song and prayer.

The Condor and the Eagle Prophesy is a metaphor that embodies the heart/mind, spirit/matter, female/male dichotomies. The brain centered Eagle through exertion of the rational mind, has created extraordinary technological advancements—to the catastrophic expense of the natural world and traditional culture. This lust for the material, coupled with the arrogance of the rational mind has put the heart centered Condor at a severe disadvantage—under siege for a Pachacuti, 500 years. Patience is a quality of the Condor—acquired patience. Through long and heartbreaking centuries, the Condor has been waiting for the time when Eagle’s arrogance would backfire, for him to find the humility to live in a heart-centered world. The Condor lost her soul mate when invaders from across the ocean laid claim to their respective lands and the continent was divided. I visualize these magnificent beings finding themselves again, soaring on the wind together in giant spiraling circles, wing-to-wing, the hemispheres of the Americas unified, the mind in the heart center, the natural world and the feminine revered and respected, unity, balance, peace restored. The visualization of the unity of these soaring dichotomies fills me with optimism in the face of the enduring and senseless tragedy of incessant war and the loss of the natural world.

I joined the run in Colombia as a runner from North America, the land of the Eagle. I witnessed the realities of life of the Indigenous peoples of Colombia and Panama. I witnessed the incessant struggles of these cultures to maintain autonomy in the midst of the ongoing colonization of their land and over the airwaves.

On the run I developed strength and patience, acceptance and gratitude. Learning to sleep directly on very hard ground, cement, I learned to merge with the healing energy of the Earth Mother. I sang the songs of the Americas that the runners carried in their hearts and sang where we were camped and in the community circles. Most importantly I learned the value of making strong prayers on a daily basis to share my gratitude with the ancestors and to recognize and honor the Medicine Wheel, the sacred circle of life that is so out of balance. I wore a pendant of the Goddess of Peace, known as the Statue of Freedom, who stands on the Dome of Washington, DC. I recognize her essence as the Peace Queen, or the Mother of Nations, from Iroquois history. She stands with an Eagle gracing her helmet of stars as a constant reminder of her native roots in the land of the Eagle and her unity with the natural world.

My personal prayer was a long apology for the arrogance, destruction and occupation of the Americas by the so-called white race. The prayer is simple, “I am sorry, I love you”. It comes from a practice known as Ho’oponopono, a spiritual tradition in Hawaii. The word Ho’oponopono means to make right, to rectify an error. Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, (who Dominique Mazeaud and I had also invited also to the World Peace Conference), healed an entire ward for the criminally insane in Hawaii with this prayer—all healed. This is not a legend. He is living proof of this remarkable healing and method of transforming the world. Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len is the master teacher with the Foundation of “I”. .

Morrnah Nalamaku Simeona, the kahuna from Hawaii who founded the Foundation of “I”, led the movement to return the Statue of Freedom to public view as part of the bicentennial celebration of the institution of the United States Constitution in 1989. Standing atop the Capitol Dome, the Statue of Freedom is so far away she is barely visible from the ground. The plaster model had once been on display in the Smithsonian Museum, but had removed from view during a remodel and put in storage for 22 years. Morrnah Nalamaku Simeona called this Goddess the “conscience of the Nation”. She said, “The Lady of Freedom represents the I-dentity of these United States…she represents freedom for the United States of America, and for the Cosmos: not just for mankind, but for all creation”. I viscerally feel a direct alignment with this Goddess, which is why I wore this pendant on the run, all the while practicing the Ho’oponopono prayer.

(More on the Goddess of Freedom later.)

There are no roads from the border of Colombia to Panama City. We had to wait for a week in a small Panamanian border town for a grocery boat that would take us through islands in the territory of the Kuna. In this small village of Afro-Caribbean peoples, I encountered a living hatred of people from the US, especially white people. The memories of the invasion of Panama to unseat Noriega in 1989 were still part of the living history; the once prosperous town destroyed; the bombed buildings never repaired; the stories of rape and unspeakable acts of violence against women and children by US soldiers were still ripe in their memories, and their hatred of me was tactile. I breathed the prayer, “I am sorry. I love you”.

It was a military border town and one had to check in with armed guards on the way to the only beach that looked like a landfill. The water was filthy. I made friends with the guard who was a Kuna and spoke to him about the “basura”, the trash. I asked him to suggest to his commanding officers that the military engage the in the pickup of all the trash on the beach. I wonder if he has been able to do anything about it. He might have.

At the only internet computer in the village I met a reporter who had flown in to the tiny airport there and was waiting for another plane. He invited me to breakfast at the café. The madam, a kind grandmother, was his friend. He shared his meal with me. The following morning I had the courage to go there alone. I ordered breakfast of fried plantains, and sat writing in my journal. The following morning when I returned, the madam gestured me to sit at what would become my designated table. The cook/waitress would not speak to me or look at me. She always just brought me the same thing, which tasted really good especially since for some days and it was the only fresh food I was eating. Word must have gotten out that there was an English speaking woman in the hood, and kind English speaking men began to show up to have a conversation, so I did meet some nice friends there. I was glad when we finally embarked on the grocery boat to the many islands in the Kuna territory. “I am sorry. I love you”.

The Kuna have a long history of their at times bloody struggle for independence, cultural autonomy and sovereignty to keep their territory free of roads or any other form of colonization. They have managed to protect 60,000 hectares. The mainland viewed from Jenny our boat, was primal, old growth, forest. Thank you Mother Earth!

The Kuna lived on what looked like floating islands—they say 365 of them—in extremely close conditions, with thatch and bamboo walls separating houses. Each community was like one closely connected living breathing entity, one integrated whole. Pigpens and out houses extended out over the water on stilts, but there didn’t appear to be any pollution problem at all. Fish were thriving in the very clear waters of this fishing culture.

The Kuna women are exquisitely beautiful with beaded designs covering their legs and arms. They constantly are making the “molas”, reverse appliqué textiles, to decorate their bodies—incredible bizarre designs of otherworldly creatures. Photography was prohibited, as it was on most of the Journey. Over the radio, one could hear music and news. Some people played tapes of old popular songs from the US. Unfortunately, television was coming in. Panama airs a lot of incredibly violent movies exported from the US, translated from English. Even with the physical protection of the territory, the disease of violence from the US is spread over the airwaves. The kids were very curious and excited to meet people from the US. There were discussions during and after the circles in the community houses about the importance of maintaining their language and culture and to beware of the nature of violence coming in over the airwaves.

It was shocking to arrive in Panama City. From the outskirts, I counted thirty tall cranes constructing high-rise buildings. I wondered how this small isthmus of land could possibly support that kind of uncontrolled growth. What would happen to all the trash? The roads were already traffic jams, and the Caribbean Sea was becoming a cesspool of plastic trash.

The Eagle and the Condor Meet

After the closing circle of the run, I traveled to Colombia with my Tayrona friend, Asdrubal, to meet with an important leader of the Tayrona people, Ramon Gil...

...and to visit his beautiful family (wife, Ester and daughter, Melony.)

Ramon had been the custodian of an Earth Treasure Vase from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition that had been delivered to him six years earlier for burial. Filling this sacred vase had been part of our ritual performances from previous trips to four cities in Colombia. I went to visit him to request that he bury the vase so it would do its sacred work; the healing and protection of the Tayrona people, of Colombia, of the Earth. Ramon is a revered Mama, a shaman or high priest of the Tayrona culture. Once he understood the value of the practice and the scope of the work, he agreed to bury it. Then he surprised me with a request that he divined from the aluna, the world behind the world. He invited me to return to help the Tayrona protect their language and culture by making books and video archives. At that moment I knew that I had to accept the invitation he had divined from the aluna and that my life as I knew it would radically change. This was the Earth Treasure Vase in action. This was Eagle and the Condor flying together. I had been invited to be a player in the fulfillment of the prophecy.

This was, and is, an enormous assignment for me to fulfill: find the funding; dispense with belongings and close my life in Santa Fe; learn Spanish really well to understand and communicate more effectively. And I needed to keep a promise I made at the closing circle of the Journey for Peace and Dignity. A realization hit me like a brick that the oppression and subjugation of the Indigenous world was actually contained within my own personal history. I had been praying and giving thanks to the ancestors, yet I personally felt cut off from own ancestors. Is this is root of the malaise of the Euro-American? The adage, “Those who cannot remember the past have no future” came to mind. If we cannot respect our ancestors, how can we honor the future generations? This may be why our culture seems to be on such a violent death trip.

"Occidental Culture"

- as seen from the beach in Santa Marta, Colombia

More to come…

Quest for "Grandmother"