José Stevens PhD is an international lecturer, corporate team builder and organizational coach, consultant and trainer. A psychologist, licensed clinical social worker and author of more than twenty books and numerous articles, he is also co-editor for the Journal of Shamanic Practitioners and a board member. He is the founder, with his wife Lena, of the Power Path School of Shamanism and The Center for Shamanic Education and Exchange, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating youth in indigenous cultures. He has completed a ten-year apprenticeship with a Huichol Maracame in Mexico and has studied with the Shipibos of the Amazon and the Paqos of the Andes for the last thirty years.
In early March 2012 I traveled to Real de Catorce, a tourist mining town in Central Mexico, arriving with a group of my shamanic students to do some ceremonial work in this high desert region. I have been going to Real for the last twenty five years and this was our annual pilgrimage lasting for several days. The town lies close to Mount Quemado, most sacred pilgrimage destination of the Huichol people, in the news recently because of a huge protest over an effort to mine the mountain by a Canadian mining company. Fortunately the protest was successful and the Mexican government issued a stay to all operations on Quemado.
After performing our ceremonies and prayers we always visit the Church of Guadalupe, a church that lies just outside the village, built in sixteen hundred by the Franciscans with indigenous labor. Although there is a large Catholic Cathedral in the center of town, I like to visit the little church because it was built by and for the indigenous people and therefore has unique qualities. It is situated with a view of Mount Quemado and is surrounded by a colorful and quite beautiful cemetery. Rather than Jesus hanging on the cross over the altar characteristic of most churches in Mexico, this church has a big picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe over the altar instead. Clearly it is a church dedicated to the feminine face of spirit rather than the masculine.
The smoke from several huge fires hung menacingly over the New Mexico horizon like a toxic shroud. The forests, still burning out of control, for a time threatened the Los Alamos nuclear labs with incineration. Other fires raged in Arizona consuming over half a million acres there while Texas burnt as well. In many parts of the country floods devastate the landscape, threatening a nuclear power plant, flooding huge tracts of homes and businesses. Few places are free of the threat of one kind of disaster or another. Times of purification are here.
Sometimes, even after doing everything right, Essence throws curves at us just to see how we will manage them. This is the tale of such a test and perhaps an example of one way of managing it along with lessons learned. After an extraordinary trip to Huallay, the stone forest in the Andes of Central Peru, my daughter Anna and I stopped in Guatemala for a reconnaissance trip, to do the pre-planning before taking our two year program group there to work with Mayan shamans. In Peru our group had worked with the Q’eros, the powerful Andean Paqos or shamans who we have been learning from. After a series of wonderful ceremonies at fourteen to fifteen thousand feet, we felt strong and filled with light. Our hearts were open and our sense of connection to Spirit was strong. So Anna and I figured we would bring this good foundation with us on our research trip to Guatemala.
Welcome to 2011. Dictators topple in Egypt and Tunisia, civil war breaks out in Libya, social unrest boils to the surface all over the Mideast, floodwaters drown towns and countryside from the United states to Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Australia, volcanoes erupt, and now a record breaking and devastating earthquake and tsunami strikes Japan. It is only mid March so fasten your seatbelts for there is much to come.
We have said that 2011 is a water year and certainly the element of water has been creating change everywhere. We also mentioned that water would be hot as we are seeing in the attempts to cool down the severely damaged nuclear reactors in Japan. Aggression is the mode for the year and as you can readily see, aggression is not limited to human expression but, because human emotion and Mother Nature are interconnected, severe aggression affects the intensity of earthquakes and tsunamis. Mather Nature is waking up and in her tossing and turning she will not be gentle. The environment itself will become aggressive because it is on the move and has much to shake up and rebalance.
Many of you have written requesting an explanation of the recent and ongoing events in Egypt. As of this writing Mubarek, the long term dictator of Egypt has been deposed and Egypt is under the temporary control of the military. Egyptians are ecstatic at their success in ousting the oppressive Mubarek regime that many have blamed for their poverty and oppression. While the Egyptians have been successful so far, no one knows what the final outcome will be because many similar revolutions in the past have failed to produce the freedoms that people sought. However, these are new times with probable new outcomes and results. Let us examine these stirring and world changing events in light of the trends forecast for 2011 and seek to understand it’s meaning for the entire world. I will begin by briefly listing the main characteristics for this year and then reviewing some of the year’s main themes.
My recent rather short eleven day trip to Vietnam was a much larger event than I could have imagined even though I knew that at some point in my life I was going to have to travel there for some completion. The trip was conceived of as both a family vacation and as a kind of pilgrimage to a land scarred not only by a war of my generation but from many past and present insults. Every once in a while my family likes to take a trip together that is not work related and so we look for interesting places we can go where air fares are bargains and this time it came up for Vietnam. My son Carlos needed a break from a heavy work schedule and the rains of Seattle as did his girlfriend Katie, and Anna, her husband Aaron, Lena and I all needed a break too from a long hard winter. So we arranged to travel together to Vietnam to get some southeast asian culture, some heat, and much desired time together. As a family we had a wonderful bonding experience and I am glad they were with me to support my own rather intense experience there.
Recently I returned from The lake Titicaca region in Bolivia and Peru, more alive than ever. This is the story of a miracle, but then, miracles have become the norm in my life. This is not to say I take these events for granted or that I am not amazed each time something like this happens.
Last month someone asked about Tiger Woods and I wrote about how some individuals volunteer to become an icon or symbol for humanity. They live bigger than life and dramatically represent some of the big lessons humanity faces. In the same way certain regions do this for the world. If the whole world represents the collective psyche of humanity then Haiti represents that part of us that is downtrodden, overlooked, ignored, and dismissed.
The current vampire craze is a most interesting phenomenon that is becoming a bigger and bigger theme, especially among young people. Let us look at a brief history of where vampires originated, some of the particulars of vampirism, and recent developments to understand how this craze mirrors deeper processes in the human psyche.
A brief history:
Concern over vampires has been reported in most cultures and continents on Earth since the dawn of time. Mostly the fears have been associated with the dead returning to life and creating havoc or coming back to people they knew and hurting or killing them. Therefore great care has been taken with burials, honoring the dead, and not provoking them. Burial sites are often avoided or placed in remote locations.
During the month of October I had the extraordinary opportunity to travel from the Peruvian Andes to the Amazon jungle, visiting in sequence the Q’ero people in the mountains and the Shipibo of the upper Amazon. This amazing trip was only partially a result of long term planning. While the trip to the jungle was part of our long term schedule, the Andean part of the trip was, to be truthful, last minute. One of our students, Richard, had connected with the Q’ero people on a prior trip to Cuzco and became a godfather to one of their children. The child was now close to two years old and it was time for the important hair cutting ceremony that signals an infants initiation into the greater community. Until that time the child’s hair (whether male or female) remains uncut and uncombed and can appear quite scraggly. Because of high infant mortality it is unclear whether the child will survive or not. Between one and two years of age the child is deemed old enough to be received more fully into the tribe. Being the godparent, Richard was responsible to make the trip to Peru and cut the child’s hair along with the giving of proper gifts and financial support. He did not particularly want to make this extensive trip alone and asked my daughter Anna, my wife Lena, and myself a couple of months before if we would be interested in going. After brief consideration we decided that this was an unparalleled opportunity to visit a people we were very much interested in meeting, so we said yes.