89 Chapters
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Eight: The Gift of Healing

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

In Chapter 2, I described the posture of the shaman who is embraced from behind by a huge Bear Spirit (pl. 1). It took some time before I recognized that the trance experience mediated was that of being healed. The posture involves a more or less pronounced inclination of the head toward the back and a positioning of the hands very close to or right above the navel. As I began searching for other representations of this posture, I also came across examples where the hands, although in the same general area of the body, seemed to be placed too far apart. At first I thought we were dealing simply with a variant, but experimentation proved me wrong, and the observation eventually led to the discovery of the birthing posture. Although not involved with curing per se, historically the experiences it provided may indirectly have led to the development of the healing posture, and so I am going to discuss it here, in the way of an introduction, although it deals with a different topic, that of the fetus at birth.

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Speaking for the Land

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

At the dedication ceremony for the University of Wisconsin Arboretum in June 1934, the pioneering ecologist Aldo Leopold began his remarks by declaring: “For twenty centuries and longer, all civilized thought has rested upon one basic premise: that it is the destiny of man to exploit and enslave the earth. The biblical injunction to ‘go forth and multiply’ is merely one of many dogmas which imply this attitude of philosophical imperialism.”

Leopold was not shy about making such grand claims, especially when, as in this brief talk, he wished to distill a complex argument into a few words. One could cite many examples of “civilized thought,” including the teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Native American cultures, that do not advocate enslavement of the Earth. And one could cite biblical injunctions that urge us to be caretakers rather than exploiters of the creation. Still, there was ample evidence in Leopold’s time that the majority of his fellow citizens regarded the Earth as purely a source of raw materials, to be mined, dammed, deforested, plowed, paved, and otherwise manipulated to suit human needs, without regard for the needs of other species and with scant regard for the needs of future generations. This attitude of “philosophical imperialism,” which wrought so much damage in the Dust Bowl years, remains powerful in our day, and is now wreaking havoc on a global scale.

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One: Beginner’s Mind: The Power and the Promise

Showkeir, Maren S. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Yoga has less to do with what you can do with your body or
with being able to still your mind than it has to do with the
happiness that unfolds from realizing your full potential

Yogarupa Rod Stryker


More often than we can count, people have said to us, “I could never do yoga. I’m not flexible” (or “I’m too hyper”). That logic is like saying, “I can’t tend to my garden—it has too many weeds in it.” Or to use a work metaphor, “I can’t clean out my email inbox. It has too many messages in it.”

It’s understandable. The sheer amount of stuff we are asked to attend to in our daily lives can be overwhelming. But when people say they lack the physicality to put their bodies into yoga poses, they are not taking into account that it is the practice that develops flexibility, balance, and a quiet mind.

In any case, yoga on the mat is only one part of the practice—one-eighth, to be exact. To use one of Jamie’s favorite analogies, the physical practice (asana) doesn’t represent the spectrum of yoga any more than looking through a knothole in a fence and seeing a pitcher throw and catch a ball gives you a complete picture of a baseball game’s nine innings. Renowned Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, who received an honorary degree from the University of Calcutta, said, “Yoga practice would be ineffectual without the concepts on which yoga is based. It combines the bodily and the spiritual in an extraordinarily complete way.”

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6 The Path of Animals

Foundation, Anasazi Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Animals sense our walking.

I don’t mean merely that they know our presence. I mean
that, in moments, they sense the intentions of our hearts—
whether our hearts are walking forward or backward.

You may wonder at my saying this. There was a time
when I wouldn’t have believed it myself.

But then I met a badger with a stone.

It happened not long after I escaped
the land of winding cliffs.

My moccasins had disintegrated from my feet, and with
them some of my confidence among the hills. Red ants
and stickers bade me turn around at each step. Finally,
I collapsed to rest in the pungent shade of a sagebrush.

After a few minutes, I heard from the other side
of the brush a muffled growl and spitting noise.
I turned my head to look.

Less than five feet away was a freshly dug hole.
From the hole a furry rump emerged—the rump of
a massive badger backing its way up the dirt ramp.
He held loosely in his front claws a fist-sized stone,
dragging and rolling it along up the ramp.

I forgot my troubles as I watched the scene.
As the badger’s body topped the ramp, he pitched
awkwardly down the other side and lost hold of the stone.
He growled and went back after it. Time and time again
he attempted the same, only to lose hold at the top.
When finally he succeeded and was about to go back—
perhaps for another rock or for a rest—he saw me.

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The Emergence Story

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

Two Indian friends, Rosemary from Taos and Joseph from Picuris, were participants in the first workshop I ever did in Cuyamungue, in the summer of 1982. We had done the postures together that I had worked through for the German television program, and then the question came up whether there were also others that I had not tried yet. So I got out the few examples that I had collected at the time, and we decided on the posture of a man squatting on a carved red sandstone pipe, an exquisite piece of art created about A.D. 1300 and discovered during excavations in Hale County, Alabama (pl. 63). The man is naked except for a cap, perhaps made from strips of hide. He has his tongue between his lips. His left hand grabs his lower left leg at an angle, his right hand is on his right knee, but stretching upward on the side of the leg, and his buttocks rest on the ground, a posture extremely demanding physically.

Both Joseph and Rosemary were shaken by what they had seen in the trance using that posture. It was dark, said Joseph, and the earth had burst open, as if an enormous volcanic eruption was about to take place, and the sky was lit up by exploding stars. Rosemary had heard people screaming, sighing, and moaning as if they were about to die. They both said that they would not try that posture again.

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The Spirits and the Wounded Tree of Life

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

Mystery in the Museum In addition to books on native art, museums often yield tantalizing representations of postures. This presupposes, of course, that what you think you see on that rack or shelf is actually there. In this business, you cannot always be sure.

The story I should like to tell next started in a museum. The School of American Research in Santa Fe had asked me for a luncheon lecture. Afterward one of the associates of the institution took some of the guests and me on a guided tour of its private museum, which possesses an outstanding collection of Amerindian art. The first spacious hall contained a great number of the most magnificent ollas, large clay vessels no longer made today. This hall had a door that opened to the right. The other members of the party had already walked through, when my attention was caught by still another shelf to the left of the exit. Instead of ollas, this one contained an exhibit of figured pieces, the likes of which I had never seen on the Indian markets. Always on the lookout for new postures, I immediately noticed a male statuette in an unfamiliar stance. It was only about five inches high, made of yellowish clay with red-brick markings, and it stood on a small pedestal which carried the inscription “Calling the Spirits.” I carefully noted the posture, how the hands were positioned on the groin with fingers spread, and how the head was tilted back slightly and the mouth was open. I wanted to sketch it, but the young woman who acted as our guide came to close the door, so I quickly jotted down a brief description and did not even check if the figurine had a number or some other identifying code.

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Conclusion: The Twilight of the Spirits

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

There is no doubt that the societies that used postures in religious ritual highly valued this knowledge. Shamans must have cherished them; that was probably why in a first-century Eskimo grave, three finely incised statuettes were found as grave offerings, carved out of walrus ivory, and clearly created by the same artist (pl. 69). They are (from left to right) shown in the Singing Shaman, the Calling of the Spirits, and the Bear Spirit postures respectively. In each instance the hands are placed somewhat lower than we are used to seeing them. Perhaps it was the intention of the artist to indicate that this was the shaman in death. Not only are the postures recreated over and over again in native art, they are also considered attributes of the Spirits, part of their power, as we see in the drawing of the Matsigenka shaman (pl. 60). Going from left to right, the “pure and invisible Ones” are shown in the posture of the Feathered Serpent, of the Singing Shaman, and of the Bear Spirit. And they passed into later traditions as conventionalized characteristics of the gods, as in the Aztec examples (Chap. 10).

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In the Land of Centaurs and Mermaids

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

In scanning a book recently about archeological finds in Europe,10 I noticed the picture of a figurine dug up in Thessaly (present-day Greece), about eight thousand years old (pl. 68). It represents a nude, rather full-breasted woman, sitting with both her legs turned toward the right side, her hands resting on her knees. Examining the figure shown a bit more closely, I realized that what at first glance seemed merely an oddly shaped face was really a mask, possibly that of a bird. That was exciting, for wearing a mask among hunter-gardeners or horticulturalists, as we know from their modern counterparts, is always a sign of a religious occasion, involving a trance experience as a matter of course. But what was even more intriguing was that in this case, the mask was combined with a totally unfamiliar posture. Ordinarily, the postures that come to light from such early horizons in Europe are those that are encountered in many other areas of the world as well, of birthing, of the Bear Spirit, of metamorphosis, and so forth. But here was one that was completely unknown in the later record. We had planned a workshop anyway for experienced participants only, to be held in a camp in rural Ohio, so this was an opportunity to try and see what the lady from Neolithic Thessaly had to teach us.

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3 The Path of Water

Foundation, Anasazi Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I escaped the land of winding cliffs to the south.
And when I did so, I changed course from where
I initially had planned to go.

From that day, I no longer ran from my people
but merely persisted in staying away from them.

Days passed into months and months into years.

I grew into manhood without the companionship of
my father and without the worrying comfort of my mother.

The hills and the valleys raised me.

Then, as well as now, in my daily walking, I have sought
the answer to one question above all others:

Where will I find water?

Think about water for a moment.

Have you ever considered all it does for us?

I have learned to walk near water, for beside it the earth
springs forth to provide shade and refreshment.

I try to rest near water,
for I need it for nourishment and strength.

I bathe in water, for it cleanses and invigorates my skin.

My final destination at the end of each day has been
a pool of pure water.

And when traveling in dry places, each morning
I have set off with as much of that pool as I could carry.

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Ten: Changing Shape—The Shimmering Game

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

In a tale of Rabelaisian abandon related by Indian fishermen of the Northwest Coast,1 their culture hero, the Raven, changes himself into a fisherman in order to make merry with the latter’s wife. When the fisherman unexpectedly returns and begins beating the intruder into a pulp, the Raven is constrained to revert to his original shape. The incensed husband ties him up and throws him into the pit of the outhouse. But the Raven, being immortal, eventually frees himself of his bonds and lives to see another day and more adventures of a similar nature.

Traces of such “softness,” as one anthropologist calls it,2 of the boundaries between humans and animals, when matters were in a state of flux between the species, are all about. Egyptian and Celtic and Hindu gods have animal heads or shapes. Echoes of the same tradition abound in the myths of every society of the world. They are known among the Australian aborigines and on the other end of the spectrum among the nineteenth-century Germans who were the consultants of the Grimm Brothers. And they are, of course, equally familiar to the Indian societies of our continent. There is a story current among the same Indian fishermen of the Northwest Coast, according to which a hunter once heard laughter coming from a cave. When he sneaked up to the entrance and peeked in, there were the animals hilariously playing at turning into people. In fact, the Haida Indians of the region recount that in those early times animals used to have both human and animal forms. As the Navajo singers put it, “In those times all the animals were like people. The four-footed beasts, the flying birds, the coiling snakes, and the crawling insects behaved the way that earth-surface people who occupy the world today behave” (Zolbrod 1984:98).

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The Mystique of Money

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

Anyone who pays attention to the state of the planet realizes that all natural systems on which human life depends are deteriorating, and they are doing so largely because of human actions. By natural systems I mean the topsoil, forests, grasslands, wetlands, rivers, lakes, oceans, atmosphere, the host of other species, and the cycles that bind them together into a living whole. By human life I mean not merely the survival of our species, although in the long run that will surely be in question; rather I mean the quality of our existence, the prospects for adequate food, shelter, work, education, health care, conviviality, intellectual endeavor, and spiritual growth for our kind far into the future.

So the crucial question is, Why? Why are those of us in the richest countries acting in such a way, individually and collectively, as to undermine the conditions on which our own lives, the lives of other species, and the lives of future generations depend? And why are we so intent on coaxing or coercing the poorer countries to follow our example? There are many possible answers, of course. It may be that on average we humans are too short-sighted and dim-witted to take stock of our situation and change our behavior. It may be that evolution has ill-fitted us to restrain our appetites. It may be that selfish genes and tribal instincts prompt us to define our interests too narrowly, excluding regard for people whom we perceive as different from ourselves, not to mention other species and unborn generations. It may be that the otherworldly religion preached so fervently across our land has convinced many believers that Earth, indeed the whole universe, is merely a backdrop for the drama of human salvation, destined to evaporate once the rapture comes. It may be that we have been so stupefied by consumerism and around-the-clock entertainment that we have lost the ability to think clearly and take sensible actions. It may be that global corporations have achieved such a stranglehold over the mass media and the political system as to thwart all efforts at reforming our way of life. It may be that the logic of capitalism, based on perpetual growth, is incompatible with a finite planet. It may be that preachers, pundits, pitchmen, and politicians have deluded us into thinking that financial wealth represents real wealth.

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Chapter 4: Pentecostalism: A New Force in Christendom

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

Pentecostalism is another important possession religion in the modern world characterized by the experience of a positive possession by an otherworldly being or force. Compared to Umbanda or Spiritualism, the spread of the Pentecostal movement is overwhelming. Figures on Spiritualist membership nationally are not available, but a glance at the telephone book of a medium-size city such as Columbus, Ohio, my hometown, which has about 600,000 inhabitants, is certainly instructive: there are nine Spiritualist churches listed, as against fifty-two Pentecostal and sixty Apostolic congregations. And that is counting only the two principal Pentecostal denominations and not all the many smaller ones, such as Assemblies of God and others. John Thomas Nichol, an American historian, is obviously justified in calling Pentecostalism the third large force in Christendom, next to Catholicism and Protestantism.1

The start of the Pentecostal movement is usually attributed to Charles Fox Parham, although experiences similar to his appeared in the English-speaking world on both sides of the Atlantic at about the same time, and many events and personalities played a part. In this country, speaking in tongues is reported sporadically at least since the middle of the nineteenth century, later especially in the American Holiness movement, an outgrowth of revivals after the Civil War. Parham was born in Iowa in 1873. As a young man he was a lay preacher in the Congregational church. Later he joined the Methodists, and then the rapidly expanding Holiness movement. In 1900, he founded his Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas. From scriptural studies he and his students became convinced that in Apostolic times a baptism by the Holy Spirit was always accompanied by the outward manifestation of speaking in tongues, and they wondered whether the same should not also be true in the modern age.

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5 The Path of Plants

Foundation, Anasazi Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

For all who have a desire to change their walking,
nature displays in abundance the way to do it.

The answer grows all around you.

Pardon me if it seems I speak in riddles.
For I do not mean to. Riddles are obscure,
while the path to forward walking is clear—
as clear as the flowers before you.

For plants, my young friend, know a secret—
the secret to forward walking.

It seems odd to say that plants walk forward, but they do.

And it is a shame that their knowledge of
forward walking remains a secret,
for they have been speaking of it to all
who would listen, from the beginning of time.

Listen to them, my young friend,
and they will show you the way.

You can hear the secret most plainly
when you are listening from a great distance.

For the secret of plants is most obvious in plants’ absence.

This is not another riddle
but simply recognition of what is sadly true:
man sees lack much more readily than abundance.

It is when plants are absent that we learn to see them.

My learning from plants began
as I wandered across a stark desert plain.

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Staying Put

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

Two friends arrived at our house for supper one May evening along with the first rumblings of thunder. As my wife, Ruth, and I sat talking with them on our front porch, we had to keep raising our voices a notch to make ourselves heard above the gathering storm. The birds, more discreet, had already hushed. The huge elm beside our door began to sway, limbs creaking, leaves hissing. Black sponges of clouds blotted up the light, fooling the street lamps into coming on early. Above the trees and rooftops, the murky southern sky crackled with lightning. Now and again we heard the pop of a transformer as a bolt struck the power lines in our neighborhood. The pulses of thunder came faster and faster, until they merged into a continuous roar.

We gave up on talking. The four of us, all midwesterners teethed on thunderstorms, sat down there on the porch to our meal of lentil soup, cheddar cheese, bread warm from the oven, sliced apples and strawberries. We were lifting the first spoonfuls to our mouths when a stroke of lightning burst so nearby that it seemed to suck away the air, and the lights flickered out, plunging the whole street into darkness.

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Mind in the Forest

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

I touch trees, as others might stroke the fenders of automobiles or finger silk I fabrics or fondle cats. Trees do not purr, do not flatter, do not inspire a craving for ownership or power. They stand their ground, immune to merely human urges. Saplings yield under the weight of a hand and then spring back when the hand lifts away, but mature trees accept one’s touch without so much as a shiver. While I am drawn to all ages and kinds, from maple sprouts barely tall enough to hold their leaves off the ground to towering sequoias with their crowns wreathed in fog, I am especially drawn to the ancient, battered ones, the survivors.

Recently I spent a week in the company of ancient trees. The season was October and the site was the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest, a 15,800-acre research area defined by the drainage basin of Lookout Creek, within Willamette National Forest, on the western slope of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. It’s a wet place. At higher elevations, annual precipitation averages 140 inches, and even the lower elevations receive 90 inches, twice the amount that falls on my well-watered home region of southern Indiana. Back in Indiana the trees are hardwoods—maples and beeches and oaks, hickories and sycamores—and few are allowed to grow for as long as a century without being felled by ax or saw. Here in Andrews Forest, the ruling trees are Douglas firs, western hemlocks, western red cedars, and Pacific yews, the oldest of them ranging in age from five hundred to eight hundred years, veterans of countless fires, windstorms, landslides, insect infestations, and floods.

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