December 2009/January 2010 Volume 60Welcome to this bi-monthly edition of our newsletter! You will find these columns contained in our December/January issue:
Carla Woody, Founder
Metaphors for Life
Sharing from a Shuar Healer
Anank Nunink Nunkui is a traditional healer, an Uwishin, of the Shuar Tribe. Born deep in the place of his ancestors, the Ecuadorian Amazon, he was chosen by his people to come live in the United States about fifteen or so years ago. Like a number of indigenous peoples around the world, they were alarmed at the strong appetite and doctrine that Western culture preaches. Having first-hand experience resulting from these ways, their rainforest home disappearing around them, they sent Anank to us in an attempt to remind of us of a kinder, gentler way of living one of respect for each other and the Goddess Nunkui (Mother Earth). We were fortunate to host Anank and his lovely wife Catherine in October through our Spirit Keepers Series.
Anank's message is one of simplicity, sometimes delivered quietly, and at other times with a loud voice, that he attributes to his ancestors, to get our attention. Either way, there's an abject humility present in the man that I've learned, over the years, to value in a true teacher and medicine person.
Counseling meditation and being present as an antidote to frustration and worries, he said, "If today is Monday you can't jump to Wednesday for your necessities until it arrives!" And then chuckled slightly under his breath, as if sharing a joke with spirits we couldn't see but were very apparent to him.
Anank shared openly about his native traditions, their entwinement in all ways, spiritual and otherwise, with their environment, their rainforest home. Indeed so many of the jungle plants are sacred to them, not only for medicinal purposes but as teachers of spiritual ways of living. In traditional times, if a child misbehaved, there was no punishment. Instead, the grandfather gave the child an herb and while the father watched over him, the plant taught the child, correcting the behavior.
He shared the ways of initiation. A young boy, having been prepared by his family, is sent into the jungle alone, with only a spear. The boy walks until he encounters something. If he is chosen, an image will appear in his path in a swirling mist or great fire - unlike anything he has ever seen before, an incredible monster or demon. He is to go right up to the apparition. If he steps back, the monster would disappear because he knows the boy is afraid. But the child will soon die because he is empty of spirit.
If, however, the boy is ready, he will chuck his spear right into the image and in that moment the image disappears. And the boy enters the realm of the Great Spirit Arutam. When he finally returns, he's a young man, with his particular power in place, having been told all happenings until the last day of his life.
After weaving the magic of his stories, Anank closed with a special meditation. Taking out a large bow, an instrument called a Tumank, he produced vibrations that entered my body. It moved in my interior in such a way that it found something I had been holding onto and expelled the energy through a cough I finally couldn't suppress.
To learn more about the work of Anank Nunink Nunkai and Catherine Nunkai to preserve the Shuar culture and rainforest home, please visit their website.
© 2009 Carla Woody. All rights reserved.Carla Woody is the author of the book Standing Stark: The Willingness to Engage and Calling Our Spirits Home: Gateways to Full Consciousness and founder of Kenosis, an organization supporting human potential and global consciousness. Carla has long been leading people toward mind/body/spirit wholeness using integrative healing methods blended with world spiritual traditions. She may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone (928) 778-1058.
More often than not, the publications or music you will find reviewed here will not be new or "bestsellers." Websites or organizations may not be well known. But all are spotlighted by virtue of their impact and value.
This film is set in Varanasi, India during the time of Gandhi's rise in the 1930s. It is, at once, much like India herself. The cinematography is incredibly beautiful recording the most holy temples, landscape, people and colors while forcing us to acknowledge devastating conditions in which so many of the people live, particularly women. A paradox placed upon the people through their most sacred beliefs. But it does not leave us with such discomfort alone. It also presents hope.
This is the story of eight year-old Chuyia, left suddenly a widow at the death of her many years older husband. As the sacred texts direct, she is sent to live in a house of widows, an ascetic, hair shorn, eating one meal a day, even though she never lived as a wife with her husband. A heart-breaking account of a practice that continues to this day in some areas. Doctrine states that while her husband is alive a woman is half his body, and when he dies she is half his corpse, held in highest esteem and yet treated badly, then living in the most extreme poverty. The hope offered in the film comes through the bond that develops between young Chuyia and some of the widows, the intervention of a stranger and the new teachings of Ghandhi making headway during those times.
The film was so controversial that, during its initial making in 2000, filmmaker Deepa Mehta, cast and crew were driven from Veranasi, their safety threatened by mobs and the set torn down, causing the project to be abandoned for a few years. Four years later, Mehta was able to complete the film in Sri Lanka. It was nominated for an Oscar in 2005.
Rather than be put off by the subject matter, I invite readers to view the film. It has a beautifully haunting quality that will stay with you for a long time. Available in DVD. The soundtrack is equally mesmerizing.
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