Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dealing with 2012 Fears

When I was in Guatemala last winter, one of our impromptu teachers was a man who operated a jade store and Mayan museum. He explained the creation myth to us from the Popul Vuh, and then began to speak about the Long Count of the Mayan calendar.

“But it seems like a lot of people really want the world to end!” he said, as we all laughed. He went on to explain – as my group heard over and over – that there are no predictions from the Mayans about the “end of the world” or doom and gloom. Some poor journalists must have thought they heard “end of the world” when it was only “the end of one calendar cycle.”

“Yes, anything could happen,” he continues, “but it’s good to stick to facts. The Maya don’t say anything about the end of the world. In fact, they have dates listed for several thousand years from now. If they thought the world was coming to an end, why did they use those dates?”

Our main teacher, Miguel Angel Vergara, speaks after the laughter dies down. The December 21, 2012 date completes the 13th Baktun of the Long Count calendar, a 5,125 year long period of time. To the Maya, 13 was the number of completion, transformation, spiritual advancement. So why do so many think of it as a “bad luck” number, Vergara asks us. He offers an answer. Perhaps it is because we know that spiritual transformation is hard work, and it means leaving behind our bad habits and vices. Perhaps they do not want to evolve, he said. To those people, 13 is thought of as “unlucky” because they do not want to give up all the things that hold back their evolution.

Vergara then asked us to list our fears about the 2012 date – either our own fears or fears that we have heard others voice.

The list was predictable, and he wrote them on his white board.

The Unknown.


Suffering and pain.


Losing things.

Vergara then addressed these “fears” one by one.

Yes, the unknown is a mystery, he told us. He paused, and then emphasized to us that the past is the past, and is over. The future is the unknown. It is only the present that is our real gift. There fore, we need to simply focus on the present, and not let our minds run away in the past or the future.

Death. Yes, we will all die. We will. And so? Accept it, and then live your life fully.

Suffering and pain. Again, Vergara said, yes, life is full of suffering and pain. That’s life. It has nothing to do with 2012.

Concern for our families. Vergara smiled and said, “They will survive without us.” He acknowledged that everyone is concerned about their families and this is natural. But we need not have an imbalanced worry about whether or not someone else might or might not survive a situation. Just carry on with living your life.

Lastly, he addressed the notion of losing things. We will lose things, he said. That’s life. Whether in catastrophe or in ordinary life, we lose things.

Vergara paused and said loudly, “Think! You all of us have ALL that you need. You have cars, money, homes, and you still suffer. What are you fearing? You are all like millionaires [sometimes he would say billionaires] compared to most of the people in the rest of the world.

“We buy what we need at the supermarket. We have lost our inner warrior. We are weak and we are comfortable. We don’t want to fight.

We need to change our thinking and become fighters again. Nothing is ever for sure.

When I used to visit a friend, we’d go outside and pick oranges outside from the tree. Today, the children are busy texting and they don’t even want to go into the kitchen.

What is the best formula to recover this part of ourselves?

He offered many solutions. He described ceremonies that we could perform to reconnect with the earth, and our divinity. He said Love, Real Love, is a part of our solution. Vergara added that “Ninety-nine percent of the time we fail to solve our problems because we don’t knock on the door of divinity. We think that our ego will solve our problems. We know all the things of the outside world, but we don’t know our Self. Are first task is to Know Thy Self.”

He emphasized the need to avoid fear, and go forward with our purpose in life.

“All these fears,” said Vergara, “are phantoms created by the media. The main purpose of life is Self-Realization.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2012



A lesson in learning how to learn

The wise man of the forest had been hailed by the people of the land, the eager pilgrims, to teach another lesson in the ways of nature. “Speak to us on the ways of the willow, oh kind sir,” asked one of the pilgrims. “The people are in great need, and it would benefit them greatly to learn the secrets of the prolific willow.”

The wise man listened intently, and told the pilgrim that he would teach the lesson on the morrow, and that the pilgrim should bring the families to the spot in the river where the willows grow around mid-day.

“Oh thank you kind sir,” said the pilgrim. “We shall be there, eager and ready to receive your lessons.”

On the following mid-day, the wise man was at the willows early, as the pilgrims began to trickle in.

It was a cool day as the pilgrims gathered around the riverbed area, near the tall and drooping willows.

“Oh, kind sir,” asked the elder pilgrim. “It is so chilly in this area. Perhaps we can build a small fire to warm up before you begin your talk?”

Without speaking, the wise man of the forest collected a long straight piece of dried willow. It was about as thick as a pencil, and about a foot and a half long. He took another dead and dried piece of willow branch, about as big around as his fist and maybe a foot long. As the pilgrims watched, the man of the forest first took his large knife and split the branch in half, and then further split the half so he had a flat rectangular piece of willow. All the pilgrims watched carefully as the wise man made a little triangular cut into the edge of the wood, and then he began to press the pencil-shaped piece of willow onto the flat piece. The wise man pressed hard, and begun to spin the willow drill onto the flat piece of willow, and soon smoke flowed from the friction. The wise man continued to spin thusly, and smoke poured out from the drilling. Soon, there was a red-hot ember in the dust that the wise man created.

The wise man quickly collected a bunch of dried willow bark from a dead branch, and scraped it with his knife to create a fluffy bunch of thin bark. He deftly placed the little ember into his nest of fluffy willow bark, and carefully blew on it until it puffed into a flame. He then placed it into a circle of stones, and added dry willow sticks so that the fire could grow and the pilgrims could warm themselves.

The wise man then began to collect his thoughts for his talk, when the leader of the pilgrims spoke up again.

“Kind sir, I don’t want to trouble you, but we have an elder here with pain in his legs. He cannot stand or sit comfortably on the floor. Is there something we can do for him?

The wise man nodded, and then proceeded to cut some of the dried and dead willow branches, those that were the straightest. He also peeled some long strands of the willow bark and put it to the side. First, the man of the woods created a square from the willows, and securely lashed the square. He then carefully measured, and then cut, willow branches that he then lashed to the square like legs, and the square because the seat of a chair. Taking a few more thick willow logs, he split them so they were flat, and secured these to the seat of the make-shift chair.

The wise man then helped the elder into the chair, cautioning him to sit carefully.

By now, the pilgrims had warmed some rice and vegetables on the fire, and one lamented to the wise man, “Too bad we didn’t bring forks and spoons.” The wise man whirled around back to the willows, and carefully trimmed pencil-thin twigs about 10 inches long. He passed several pairs of these to the pilgrim, saying only “chop sticks.” The pilgrims eagerly took these and began to eat their vegetables and rice.

By now, much time had passed and the sky was darkening.

As the wise man considered how to deliver his talk on the virtues of the willow, another pilgrim spoke up saying, “Kind sir, I have a terrible headache. Is there anything that I can do to help?”

The wise man nodded, and then carefully peeled off some fresh willow bark. He put the shredded green bark into a metal can, added water, and set it into the coals of the fire. After a few minutes, the wise man poured the tea-colored water into the pilgrim’s cup, and asked him to drink it. “The willow bark is nature’s aspirin,” he explained.

By now, the sky was darker, the children restless, and a cold wind began to pick up. The leader of the pilgrims looked about and decided they should depart for the day. As everyone was packing and getting ready to depart, he spoke up loudly for all to hear, saying, “We are all so thankful that the wise man of the woods came here to teach us about the wonderful willow, but we are very sorry that there was no time for him to teach us anything.”

The wise man tried to conceal his smile as he walked out of the canyon with the pilgrims.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Sun Bear

“If your religion doesn’t grow corn, I don’t want to hear about it.” – Sun Bear

I’ve always liked that quote from Sun Bear. I’ve even seen it on a bumper sticker. Sun Bear created what he called a modern tribe, the Bear Tribe, with both Indians and non-Indians who were interested in self-reliance and living in a traditional tribal society.

After he died, the tribe scattered and the popular magazine, Many Smokes, was no more.

His famous quote arose from various people who would talk to him about their religion or philosophy, and he grew tired of the highly esoteric, New Age, mind-religions and beliefs. He felt that you should always question the beliefs you hold dear, and that these beliefs should sustain and support you. They should “grow corn.”

Sun Bear and his followers traveled around the U.S. and the world, sharing his teachings, a blend of traditional Native ideas and beliefs, as well as his modern spin on what it takes to live self-sufficiently, and “in balance.” He encountered many other beliefs and –isms, and philosophical concepts.

At their farm they produced their own food, built their buildings, and actually created the world they wanted to live in. I don’t know what specifically caused Sun Bear to make his pronouncement, but I suspect it was theabundance of cults and gurus back in the 70s and 80s where the followers ran around, selling trinkets and holy objects, doing their best to support the leaders, in the name of “doing God’s work.”

Another side to this quote is that we should not divorce our day-to-day life with our beliefs. We should apply the principles that we say we believe in towards the problems we face. We should apply what we believe even when it is inconvenient to do so.

So basically, Sun Bear is telling us that if your religion or philosophy or belief system is not practical, or productive, or useful on all levels, then he didn’t want to waste his time on it!