Events and Newsletters -
Summer 2002 - Issue 18
What is a "Healing Self, Healing Earth" Workshop?
In many newsletters we’ve advertised a workshop called “Healing Self, Healing Earth” that SEN staff have created and facilitated many times. Below is an excerpt from an article written by Bill Pfeiffer about our most recent offering that will appear in “The Web”, John Seed (an Australian Deep Ecologist)’s Newsletter.
Circling up at Moonshadow
Sitting on top of a cliff outcropping, a sandstone cave behind us, looking out on Cherokee Nation forests in southern Tennessee. Cathy Pedevillano and I have just completed facilitating a “Healing Self, Healing Earth” workshop at Moonshadow, a community dedicated to sustainable living. Before going back into more ordinary reality, Cathy reminds me to give thanks to Mother Earth and all the spirit helpers who have guided us over the past weekend. I feel very strong and connected. We rest on the shoulders of our ancestors who understand the incredible responsibility of passing on Life to future generations. And what a glorious challenge that is. At this moment though, there is little sense of the future or past, just incredible gratitude for being alive and being of service.
On Friday May 17, 2002, a group of 11 participants gathered at Moonshadow from different parts of the Southeastern US. After setting sacred space, going over logistics and introductions, we presented the theory of this work, (“The Work That Reconnects” as Joanna Macy refers to it) emphasizing how we humans living in the 21st century have been saturated with a sense of separateness and isolation. While presenting, we watched nodding heads of agreement when we described two destructive core beliefs in our individual and collective consciousness; 1) humans arrogantly feel more important than everything else and 2) we inhabit a dead Universe to be used at our whim. These two “demons” grow out of a sense of separateness, what Einstein referred to as our “optical delusion of consciousness.” We offered the possibility that building Earth-honoring community was a way through the darkness. A sharing circle followed, and each person stated their intention as well as how they felt about what is happening in our world. Hope, denial, and sadness surfaced. Group bonding began. We closed the evening with a song.
Sacred objects on altar
In the morning before breakfast we led a silent mindfulness walk tuning into the natural world by “opening the sense doors.” During the walk I felt my own internal shift happening, slowing down, noticing the childlike wonder in myself and the others. moving away from the usual goal orientation of my life. After a silent breakfast which lessened the distraction of idle conversation, we entered into a series of “despair” processes. The morning climaxed with a “Truth Mandala,” which allowed everyone to stretch their emotional comfort zone. One man who recently retired from a high level position at NASA commented later, that he did not realize people felt so strongly about the destruction of eco-systems and was “committed to do something about it.” Another participant realized that expressing her anger did not detract from her aspiration of being a more loving person. A resident of Moonshadow said she looked out on the same ridge countless times but this time she felt one with it.
Sweat lodge preparation
After lunch and a nurturing process called the “Cradling,” we prepared for a sweat lodge, a Native American purification ritual*. We feel very fortunate to be able to partake in this ancient ceremony. Preparing for the sweat is a team effort, gathering stones and wood for the fire, laying blankets on the stick frame. After several hours of heating the stones in the fire, the sacred ceremony began. When brought into the lodge, each rock glistened with teachings gleaned from millions of years of being part of the bones of Gaia. We thanked every grandfather and grandmother stone who, according to Native beliefs, give over their spirits to us. Collectively we prayed and chanted for a “good way” ahead, for the preservation of the rainforests, for the well-being of our families, for the survival of all the other life-forms, and on and on. The hotter the lodge became, the harder we prayed. When I came out of the lodge and looked up at the stars, I felt that we are that! We are all of it.
*We understand that “Whites” doing native ceremonies is controversial but we’ve also heard from several Native American elders who feel that during the critical times we live in, it’s important that non-Indians share in these powerful purification rituals.
Drawing and writing after shamanic journey
The next day was lighter. Feeling cleansed, we played more and spent time in nature, both alone and with the group. On their solo, we asked the participants to observe three inner states and three outer natural forms. Upon completion, they reported a blending between the world in front of and behind their eyes. There was a pervasive feeling of peace and contentment in the group. I reflected at how really little it takes to make humans happy.
At another of Moonshadow’s amazing rock outcroppings we did a shamanic journey with drumming. We set both a personal and group intention. Afterwards the group drew with pastels and pencils and the art was amazing. The sharing that followed was very powerful and some people had common themes, symbols and experiences in their journeys, further showing how intricately we are all connected. One woman described how in her journey her Spirit guide said to lighten up and invited her to dance. I asked her to show us the dance. She beamed and preceded to show us a powerful, beautiful dance.
We closed the workshop with each participant asking for a blessing from the rest of the group. We then gave out “Action Contracts” for each to fill out and reminded everyone to take the inspiration, peace and healing they had found that weekend into the wider world. Healing Self, Healing Earth ended with hugs and appreciations all around.