Jun 112014

Walking a Sacred Path – Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool
by Dr. Lauren Artress

I walked into the Friends of the Library booksale in Gainesville, Florida, a glorious event which just happened to coincide with my month-long sabbatical in Gainesville.
My wife and daughter quickly appropriated shopping carts and began filling them up with books and magazines.  I took one walk around and, right at the beginning of the walk, came across the only book I was to buy: Walking a Sacred Path:

Walking a sacred path

I am extremely curious and constantly find myself wanting to learn a million different trades, yet, at the same time, I have learned to become aware of the channel or thread in my life, of the river I’m flowing along and how its currents give me a sense of the turns ahead.  Shortly before this I had turned for the first time.  I had visited a Sufi family and, in their beautifully simple and sacred livingroom, had learned to turn or whirl for the first time.


I told the lady, Hilal, right from the beginning that I get dizzy fast (takes less than 2 spins with my daughter or son to feel like the world is all wrong) yet I handed over my person to this age-old practice.  That night I was invited to turn and I did so twice for 30 minutes each time.  I could feel my body grow cold and sweaty/clammy; I turned until I stopped turning and the world began turning around me; I turned together with others and I lost myself in the practice and came out changed.
Sufi’s work hard in their spiritual practice.  It is hard work.  Physically and mentally.

The similarities between the Sufi practice of turning and the Christian-mysticisms practice of walking the labyrinth are evident.  Both practices involve a surrender to the present moment, to a loss of attaining a goal because the practice itself is so hard that only staying in the very instant will get you through; both involve circling or spiraling, a loss of linear external orientation and an entering into an internal compass; both are physical practices for spiritual goals.

This book felt small, concise, sharp (for the most part… sometimes felt a little convince-y) and written from a passionate and knowledgeable perspective.  I definitely recommend it.  Dr. Lauren Artress found herself drawn to the labyrinth in her personal life path and then worked to understand it in the context of Christian spiritual practice and did extensive work to divulge/reanimate it.
I strongly agree with the author’s emphasis on spirituality being a personal experience and a personal endeavour and what we need is tools for assisting the individual’s connection to spirit, to their spiritual path, rather than an an external entity dictating our spiritual path.  The labyrinth is one tool for connection to spirit.

“To walk a sacred path, each of us must find our own touchstone that puts us in contact with the invisible thread.  This touchstone can be nature (as it was for me early on), sharing with our friends, playing with our children, painting on our day off, or walking in the country.  It may be the Sunday-morning liturgy and Eucharist.  Walking a sacred path means that we know the importance of returning to the touchstone that moves us.  The labyrinth can serve as a touchstone.”

“It is a container for the creative imagination to align with our heart’s desire, it is a place where we can profoundly, yet playfully, experience our soul’s longing and intention.”

“The experience is different for everyone because each of us brings different raw material to the labyrinth.”

“We need to be shaken out of our complacency and begin to use our short time here creatively so we don’t look back in regret.  …  To be pilgrims walking on a path to the next century, we need to participate in the dance between silence and image, ear and eye, inner and outer.  We need to change our seeking into discovery, our drifting into pilgrimage.”

Enjoy this book

Jun 032014

Finished reading Hyemeyohsts Storm’s Seven Arrows a couple of days ago, right before bed, and spent the night dreaming of medicine names, rivers, eagles… I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. Or maybe, more accurately, I was expecting something different. I think I was expecting a sweet, nature-loving account of how Native American life was organized; a look at their cosmology, their way of life, their traditions and connection to life, nature and god. I think that the first few chapters still allowed me to keep that view of the book as Hyemeyohsts goes into different stories/tales that are important medicine stories in their tradition. I think that somewhere around here my view of the book changed:

“Before, when the camps had come together, the Sun Dancers had stood in a line within the Medicine lodge. The drum had been its heartbeat, and the singers’ voices had been strong. The People had stood there in the Renewal of the Brotherhood and watched the sunrise. The Power had been strong and because of this the People had been strong. But this time, the sunrise that came the next morning at Sand Creek was not the same. The morning exploded with the frightening crash of thunder irons, as hundreds of Pony Soldiers charged into the camp at a full gallop.

Hawk was awakened by screams and by the roar of horses’ hooves and exploding weapons. He grabbed his bow and quiver and ran outside. He saw hi mother clutch at her stomach and roll over in a sudden pool of blood. She spilled her cooking pot as she fell, and the steam rose from it into the air.”
arrow 2

As I reflect on the book I notice that one striking feature that so touched me is the absence of a reason for the book.  To clarify: it doesn’t feel like the author was trying to tell me something or convince me of something, of his agenda.  He writes a story, an account of lives lived and of the way of viewing the world according to the Medicine of the Peace Shields and, just as in real life, there are deep losses and high beautiful moments.

To me, a very moving book.


May 292014

“Thank you very much,” said Jumping Mouse.
“But you Know, it was very Frightening Running under you with only One Eye.  I was Constantly in Fear of your Great Earth-Shaking Hooves.”
“Your Fear was for Nothing,” said Buffalo.
“For my way of Walking is the Sun Dance Way, and I Always Know where my Hooves will Fall.  I now must Return to the Prairie, my Brother.  You can Always Find me there.”
- Hyemeyohsts Storm

Haya Trees1Chief Tsunka Wakan Sapa (Phillip Scott) holding Haya up to the the tall redwoods

Just a few days ago I got to attend a beautiful blessing ceremony for a baby girl, Haya, who turned 1.  The ceremony took place amongst tall redwoods and was led by Phillip Scott, a Chief in the Lakota tradition.

Blessings Haya!

May 272014

Lost in the City of Flowers was book 2 of 50 and it landed perfectly between Walking the Labyrinth and The Wondrous Mushroom.  I smiled to see the theme of feeling lost (as in a labyrinth) continuing in to this book and then I was fascinated to find the concept of Flowers being the centerpiece of The Wondrous Mushroom.

Lost in the City placed me in Florence in the year 1469, in the time of Leonardo da Vinci, and as the book’s adventures unfold the reader gets to live and imagine what life was like at that time and what Leonardo’s personality could have been like.  This book brought me to a place of seeing the human in Leonardo; I loved how he is portrayed as a witty, playful, not-boastful young man as well as already being very accomplished in many fields.
Reminded me of Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World in that it teaches the reader something but not in a direct way, it does so in the way that we humans best learn which is through stories with interesting characters, heroins we identify with, villains we love to hate and larger than life humans such as Leonardo da Vinci.

Definitely recommended.

LITCFauthor Maria C. Trujillo enjoying her book

This is Maria C. Trujillo’s first book and I look forward to accompanying her evolution in writing and storytelling.

May 262014

Skull and Flower“Come sit with me, and let us smoke the Pipe of Peace in Understanding.
Let us Touch.
Let us, each to the other, be a Gift as is the Buffalo.
Let us be Meat to Nourish each other, that we all may Grow.
Sit here with me, each of you as you are in your own Perceiving of yourself, as Mouse, Wolf, Coyote, Weasel, Fox, or Prairie Bird.
Let me see through your Eyes.
Let us Teach each other here in this Great Lodge of the People, this Sun Dance, of each of the Ways on this Great Medicine Wheel, our Earth.”
 – Seven Arrows, by Hyemeyohsts Storm

Join me in Book 4 of this 50 book project.  Seven Arrows by Hyemeyosts Storm.
Previous books were:
1 – Walking a Sacred Path – Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool, by Dr. Lauren Artress
2 – Lost In The City Of Flowers – The Histories of Idan Book I, by Maria C. Trujillo
3 – The Wondrous Mushroom – Mycolatry in Mesoamerica, by R. Gordon Wasson

You can read my brief reviews of the books on plimbooks (playing catch up with the reviews of books 1 and 2)