Jul 122012

It takes my teacher Martín Prechtel several hours to walk a short distance because every stream and river, rock and valley in the village is sacred and needs to be sung to, fed by our beauty-making. We are too fortunate for our debt to ever be paid, so instead we cultivate indebtedness as a way of life.

You might say that our abandonment of ritual practice is the greatest loss felt by modern society. Under the spell of rationalism, we have forgotten what indigenous people understand to be cardinal: that this world owes its life to the Unseen.

Our disconnection from the Old Ways expresses itself in our culture’s affliction with depression, anxiety, violence and loneliness.What we are experiencing, explains Marion Woodman, is the loss of the symbolic life. We have displaced our natural impulse to worship the sacred onto the material. We accumulate wealth instead of strengthening our values, pursue knowledge instead of wisdom and choose status over village-making.

In tribal society, every inheritance, every yield, every loss and every yearning must be distinguished by an offering made to the Invisible. Vicariously, in this practice of making gifts for the Holy, we are being fed. The meals we eat, the land we steward, the clothing we wear, even the losses we sustain become thick with intention and we wear them like the jewels of human wealth that they are.

In the Dagara village, writes Malidoma Somé,  it is considered criminal to go on with ‘business-as-usual’ when someone has died, because without everyone’s grief, the dead person will be trapped between worlds, unable to shed the “ragged clothes we call a body, and walk naked” in the spirit world.

But ritual is also needed by the griever, who might otherwise remain attached to places and people who have passed, draining them of their vitality in present time. Without the ritual support of our community, the entirety of our grief can never be emptied, our losses clinging to us like old skins, creating loops in our dreams, and stuckness in our lives.

This is why we write down the dreams we have been given. Each one is a precious gift from Unwhere, to be  acknowledged for its generosity, courted for its wisdom and honoured with action. The reward of our remembering is that we are ourselves remembered. Life becomes evermore meaningful as the conversation between this world and that gets stronger,  our days grow potent with night-magic, (what we call synchronicity), and every day jumps alive with the normiracles of living.

“Walking, I can almost hear the redwoods beating. And the oceans are above me here, rolling clouds, heavy and dark. It is winter and there is smoke from the fires. It is a world of elemental attention, of all things working together, listening to what speaks in the blood. Whichever road I follow, I walk in the land of many gods, and they love and eat one another. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.” ― Linda Hogan, Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World.

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A writer, artist and tender of dreams, Toko-pa has been interviewed by CNN News & BBC Radio and her writing has appeared in publications around the world. Thanks to Skype, she works with dreamers internationally in her Private Dreamwork practice, based on Salt Spring Island in Canada. You can find Toko-pa on Facebook or sign up for her mailing list to receive news about upcoming events.

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  9 Responses to “Ritual and the Cultivation of Indebtedness”

  1. I only wish that I could have been this spiritual traveler, prophet, teacher, within the context of my birth family and found it ok to be there. I feel as though they have missed a great writer and a great ride with me by indifference and disdain toward the me that is me. So now, where will this body housing this energy go to finally live its essence out loud?

    Those who are calling, that which is calling: I will be with you there.

    • May that you create the family of your dreams in present time, Sage – may you feel seen and deeply loved by all those that surround you, and may your essence reach us all.

  2. Thank you for sharing these words Toko-pa. Yesterday i was sharing with someone my awareness of how valuable Ritual is with women, as i am a woman. I reflected on Shamanic Training i was involved in a couple of years ago and how much getting together with other women was so helpful in Remembering. Self. All around. I cried then, when the flow of Remembering came. “How could i have forgotten” i asked myself. Today is a new day. I am feeling low energy, sad, empty, somewhat reflective, then THIS message came from You Toko-pa. 🙂 I sit here confused about what is really important to me, to life and really how to express all the above. “I suppose it is just in the awareness”, this being enough i say to myself. Is a start. I agree that depression comes because of forgetting about the Old Ways. Separation from Source. As i look outside i see clouds that cover the sun. I judge the clouds as being depressed. I ask myself if this means that the clouds are disconnected from the Old Ways? A smile comes as i reply “the clouds are simply doing what they do, nothing to be fixed, as they will just pass by and the sun will be revealed”. So i will keep this in mind, as the clouds mirror my mood. My mood will change. I have faith. HA HA, as i reread what i have written…. here comes the sun! My mood has shifted more because i have reached out and responded to the call. Of Spirit. <3 Thank you.

  3. I resonate so strongly with this post, your work, and the energy you are putting out in the world. I wanted to say thank you for writing such a beautiful entry embodying the teachings he shares so wonderfully. I look forward to exploring your shamanic writings and following your work!

    A little bit about me for context – I have read all of Martin’s books several times and am now attempting to memorize them and hope at some point to go to Bolad’s. I am also a fellow Lucid Dreamer, musician, and writer.

    Looking forward to connecting more toko-pa

  4. I am delighted to see that I am not alone in the desire to make every act holy, every act a prayer of intention and connection, eating, walking, washing the dishes.

    I have recently started feeling that ‘observances’ are far more than initially understood (at least these days). Rather, that the act of ‘observing’ the cycles of nature somehow energizes them, keeps them alive, almost as if the world literally tips off-axis by the lack of conscious observance-ing. It becomes a vital, participatory act then!

    I have reached a point where almost everything else has fallen away, in terms of priorities, and I am being called to this ritual work on a daily basis, as if the small area of my personal life, home and relationship requires all my attention because as the microcosm, it is necessary to infuse it with the right kind of intent, spreading outward like a web.

    It is quite strange to see my former ambitions disappear as the focus of ritual becomes paramount in my life. WHo knew it could be a 24hrs a day calling? I for one am quite blown away by the idea and not a little mystified by the task of finding worthy role models…

    And I’m quite young still actually, which makes it all the more intriguing. At 32 to feel very strongly that I have a medicine woman’s calling…And nothing flashy like even helping anyone per se, healing, fixing or teaching, literally just transforming every object and act of my life into a conscious magical practice. It’s a strange feeling.

  5. Your words nourish me so. Thank you! <3 <3 <3

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