Indigenous people, along with certain spiritual traditions such as Taoism and Buddhism, experience the Earth and all living beings as sacred. Mystics and Empaths do, as well. We can feel the soul of an animal, a tree, a mountain… all life is sacred to us. Children have the capacity to experience life through their pure hearts, living in a state of trust, innocence, and joy, until life in Western culture begins to block that, and shut that down. Part of our healing journey is about restoring that inner purity, that inner awareness between ourselves and all living things. It’s about moving down out of our head, back into the realm of the sacred, our heart.
Western culture values intellect over empathy. I have no idea why that is. What we call ” civilization ” is the greatest lie ever perpetrated upon humanity. It’s an absolute myth. There is nothing civilized about racism, misogyny, greed, materialism, capitalism, the narcissism we see rampant in our culture everywhere we look. People working at jobs they hate just to survive, no health care, insurance companies profiting off of pain and suffering, wars, ghettos, poverty… civilization? I don’t think so.
This week, I made a decision to step away from social media. I had been giving it serious thought for some time, but I believed that I could do some good there. My page was private, not public, with only those people I had accepted as friends able to see my posts. People share all kinds of things on social media, some things are inspirational, some things are funny, some things are political, and some share events that interest them. It was one of the events that precipitated my decision to leave. It was an event being promoted by someone who was leasing a mountain in Vermont for a weekend, which he was touting as an ” Everest experience “, where, for a mere $4500 per person, you would climb the mountain 17 times, and be brought back down by gondola each time. This would be the equivalent of summiting Everest. Plus, there would be BANDS!! And FOOD TRUCKS!! And in his words, you should ” climb the god damned mountain!” All that was missing from this Everest-lite event was a flashing neon sign proclaiming ” LIVE NUDE GIRLS! ” I almost got physically ill reading it. I cried. It was my definition of the profane.
In Native culture, mountains are seen as teachers, as dragons, as ancient beings. If someone is doing a Vision Quest, they go up on the mountain to sit alone in prayer for 4 days. They meditate, fast, and reflect. They are supported by an elder at the bottom of the mountain, who also prays. It is one of the sacred ceremonies used to bring one closer to Spirit. We leave the world behind, so that we may gain clarity. We sit in stillness, quieting the chatter of the mind, away from the world and all of its distractions. We see ourselves as being upheld by the mountain, with its power, wisdom, and grace. When one is confused or conflicted about something, the saying in Native tradition is ” You need to go up on the mountain to get balanced”. This is why so many monasteries are built on top of a mountain. They are often chosen as the place of spiritual retreat. The Himalayas are known for Buddhist monasteries hidden away in remote mountains. In Tibet, the true name ( not the English name) for Everest translates to be ” The Holy Mother”. The Sherpas have a base camp surrounded by prayer flags. They do ceremony and offer prayers to the mountain before every climb. The mountain is sacred to them. Summiting is not seen as “conquering ” the mountain. That would be absurd. There is no ego involved. Nor are there bands playing.
I cried because for me, this event epitomizes all that is wrong with western culture’s approach to life. It epitomizes the lack of respect for the Earth, the lack of reciprocity in life, of giving back. The entitlement. The hunger for stimulation, turning a potentially beautiful experience in nature into a three-ring circus. Making it be about athletic performance, rather than anything deeper or richer. It represents a complete disrespect for the sacred. ( Why not stay in a gym, on a treadmill)? It represents the ego. The arrogance in that statement ” climb the god damned mountain” is stunning. Right. The god damned mountain. I’m sure the Sherpas refer to the Holy Mother that way. In that moment, I was finished with social media. Done. Seeing photos on social media of the Trump sons holding the cut-off tail of a dead elephant one had just shot, or the body of a dead leopard, grinning, so proud of themselves. Every photo like that is a body blow to me. Civilization? Count me out.
In reality, in every moment we are surrounded by the sacred. Breaking free of the trance we have been conditioned to live in is the invitation. Feeling the essence of the souls around us takes courage, because it means we are more open and vulnerable. This is the path of the warrior, the path of the heart. The path of the intellect is much safer, because mind does not feel. The mind is a computer, its job is to analyze data. That’s it. Without heart to balance and guide it, mind is a sterile thing. A lonely thing. Warmth, love, and joy come from living from heart. When we live from heart, we feel our connectedness to all things. We can be inspired by an eagle soaring overhead. The mist hanging over the water. The clouds passing over the Moon. The sky on fire at sunset in shades of magenta and orange. Everything has a message for us, if we are open and living in the heart.
I believe that the mountain featured in that post was a teacher for me. By seeing the disrespect shown to the mountain by unconscious people, it was a clear message to me. The message was for me to step away from social media and the Race Mind. This disrespect is the same disrespect shown to all of us, at one time or another. This was just one example of it. Yes, there are lovely people posting photos of family, and positive things. Yes, there are activists trying to make a difference. I like to believe I fit into that category. At the same time, the reality is that we live in a world where there is an absence of the sacred. My invitation is to find another way to inspire people who love the planet, nature, animals, and humanity, to teach people how to come out of the trance the culture induces, and come home to the sacred, which lies in the heart. It’s the simplest journey, really. It’s about trust. It’s about love. It’s about walking upon the earth with reverence and respect. It is about each of us refusing to participate in anything that profanes the spirit of anything or anybody, including ourselves. Anything that insults our spirit must not be tolerated. Anything that profanes the world we live in must be denounced and rejected. I believe that what we call civilization is a myth. We need to find a better way, starting within the self, by choosing love over fear, and truth over silence.
I send my love and gratitude to my teachers, some still with me, and those that have passed into the spirit realm. To Grandmother Twyla Nitsch, Seneca elder, and the head of the Wolf Clan Teaching Lodge, thank you. To Grandfather Wallace Black Elk, Lakota Holy man, thank you. To Grandfather Archie Fire Lame Deer, Lakota Holy man, thank you. To Grandfather Albert Ward, Micmac Holy man, thank you. To Taoist Master Dr. Jeffrey Yuen, you are a blessing in my life. I send you love and prayers daily. You have all taught me how to walk a path of heart, and to honor the sacredness in all living things. Your teachings live in my heart, always.
Jimmi Hendrix had a song called ” If Six Was Nine”. In it, he sings, ” I’m going to wave my freak flag high. Wave on, wave on”. I’ve always lived outside of the culture, knowing it had nothing to offer me. Someone once asked Mahatma Gandhi what he thought about civilization. His answer was ” I think it would be a good idea”. Today, I’m proud of being a Mystic. I’m proud to be a freak. I’m proud that I don’t fit in, and never did. I’m proud of my capacity to love. Most of all, I’m proud to be pretty unfuckingcivilized. I dedicate this post to mountains everywhere, to the wild places where civilization has never reached, and to the freaks like me that love them, and to all of the uncivilized people in my world. You rock. Blessings, Judith
** Rest in peace, Lakota activist and poet John Trudell. You are missed.
** Photo taken by a friend last year in Myanmar. Thanks, Jen.