Saturday, August 29, 2009

I just made quinoa tabouleh salad. Quinoa is grown in the Andes by indigenous peoples (Quechuas). I was reading Galeano's "Mirrors" the other night and he writes about the two Colorado university professors who were able to obtain a patent for the grain and after which they told the indigeneous peoples that even though they now legally own the patent, the farmers will be allowed to continue to plant the grain and that a portion of the proceeds will be given back to them. The farmers replied: (i'm paraphrasing)...these people must think we are dumb. Why would we accept your donations to what we already own?...The patent was rescinded.

I write about this only because I've been thinking lately about the free market of spiritual goods. I looked at a website about a famous "visionary and spiritual leader" who doesn't acknowledge no other teacher than his own experience even though his ideas are obviously borrowed from Buddhist teachings. He is received by his followers as an original and he is now a brand name.( or at least for the moment until the next one teacher appears).

One of my students asked the question: if I want to follow the Buddhist path, do I need to find an Asian teacher or seek to practice in an Asian sangha? If Buddhism has evolved to produce "American Buddhism" is there still a need for lineage and transmission from teacher to pupil as is done in the more traditional Buddhist paths? What is the rationale for a meditation center to call itself anything but a Buddhist center even though its teacher was once a serious Zen student? And what if after Zen, one dabbles in other spiritual practices, making one's experiences more eclectic and syncretistic, what happens to the tradition then? These are questions that make for good quinoa salad dinner conversation in my home.

This is also related to a question I get asked often these days? Who is a Babaylan? What is a Babaylan? In conversations, I hear about someone's Lola or Lolo as an indigenous healer and they are convinced that somehow they have inherited this gift but has never acknowledged it. There is no tradition they know of (having grown up in the US), no name to their experiences. Most of them keep it a secret in the family. Now that there are at least fragments of historical knowledge that we know about the tradition and we have a limited (primary or secondary) access to living Babaylans in the Philippines (so we know that the practice is still alive), is it now okay to come out of the closet as a Babaylan?

When I asked Grace Nono if she is a Babaylan, she said that in order to honor the primary Babaylans who have taught her for the last 15 years, she will not claim to be a Babaylan. However, she is willing to acknowledge that she has become a "gateway to the babaylan." Sister Mary John Mananzan said that she is inspired by the spirit of the Babaylan.

So whether it's questioning the Colorado professors who wanted to get the patent rights to quinoa that is owned by indigenous peoples in the Andes or whether it is a questioning of how to be a Buddhist in America or questioning whether to call one's self a babaylan or not, it is always better to do so at the dinner table where we are (hopefully) more consciously aware that it is the Land that feeds our bodies, minds, and spirit. The rest is only discourse.

We Filipinos like to joke about our eating habits. I suspect that we laugh because we know deep inside that eating is sacred because it connects the Land to our body and our Kapwa.. Eating as ritual in praise of the gift-giver...

Friday, August 28, 2009

57 years, 57 thank yous.

1. Noah loves school. This week he is the weatherman.
2. Dustin keeps the numbers up at work.
3. Cal is consulting again.
4. Our new Macs: a Macbook Pro and a Desktop.
5. Sisters and brother all doing well.
6. Babaylan Conference is happening.
7. Chair of the Department.
8. Qi gong and yoga breathing.
9. Dreamwork
10. Easing into menopause well.
11. The garden feeds us and adorns us.
12. The gift of friendship with --
13. Perla, Letty, Lorial, Baylan
14. Melotte and Miriam
15. Venus, Vedel, Lizae, Frances
16. Jodie, Karen, Felicia, Marissa, etal
17. Grace Nono, Katrin de Guia, Virgil Apostol
18. Books by --
19. Eduardo Galeano
20. Merlinda Bobis
21. Eileen Tabios
22. Linda Hogan
23. Waiwai
24. Facebook
25. Spring Lake and Howarth Park
26. Redwoods
27. California Coast
28. Blogs of friends --
29. Chatelaine
30. Okir
31. new consulting gigs
32. Yogananda
33. Soon to be born Babaylan book
34. The one who doesn't appear in my dreams anymore.
35. The ones who appear in my dreams
36. The Imaginary, Symbolic, Real
37. Philosophy and Literature
38. Dance and Jams
39. Surprise visits
40. New collaborators
41. Martin Prechtel
42. Neil deGrasse Tyson
43. Sheroes in the frontline of social justice
44. Indian Canyon, Akiba, Judy and the farm
45. Comfort shoes
46. Yosemite and Mendocino
47. This Blog's readers
48. Buddha and meditation
49. Ancestral memories
50. whispers from beyond
51. things i had forgotten
52. and now remember
53. dreams of speaking
54. dreams of writing
55. dreams of desire
56. lengthening horizon
57. limitless, numberless

Thursday, August 27, 2009

i don't know why i took Madan Sarup's intro to post-structuralism and postmodernism from my book shelf last night... and i've spent all day today cuddled with it in the back patio in steaming heat scribbling notes, chuckling at times (as these texts sometimes give me cause to...)

maybe it's because i needed to refresh my memory a bit since i feel i've been on a hiatus from academic reads. and i suspect that it's also because i want to be able to articulate a response to folks who say that the proponents of indigenous discourses, like Sikolohiyang Pilipino (including the babaylan tradition), are merely nostalgic for a past/lost innocence/precolonial longings for wholeness, etc. but as much as i want to engage in critiquing the critics, there is a part of me that resists the project. i feel that the work i am called to do has less to do with defending my/our work or responding to criticisms.

yet a part of me also wants to feel grounded intellectually...an embodied cognition, that is.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

everyday i marvel at the dance of the babaylan.
a while back, a babaylan in Manila emailed: Leny, it is about dance. It is not the work of the willful mind's agenda, no matter how well-intended. i am learning...and this is how she teaches me...

almost everyday i get a message of surprise:

she wants to move to the Bay Area to be part of a babaylan community
she wants to create jewelry to give as gifts to the first conference registrants
she wants to do an art installation for the conference
she is organizing a ritual gathering in the Bay Area to raise funds for the conference
she is organizing a ritual gathering in Los Angeles to raise funds for the conference
she sends a facebook message: i am so touched by what i read in the website. i just know what you are saying. i just get it.
she wants to host a film night to raise funds for the conference.
she wants to do a powerpoint presentation to spread the word.
he wants us to use his photographs.
she is sending us energetic blessings from Mt Shasta.
he wants to be a media sponsor for the conference.
he wants to come to the conference ...all the way from Mindanao.

all of these gifts greet me every morning. who wouldn't be in awe?

we are in dire economic times. it costs money to put together an international conference. but all of us who envision this conference feel that the time is right.

Our time is Now. i just know...

Friday, August 07, 2009

thanks to Jean for today's meditation on the red Tara, Kurukulla.

and this, too:
What kind of dialogue can emerge between the urban or avant-garde artist and the babaylan--with her traditions and healing rituals, her community, and her deep relation to the earth and the body? Are there rifts and fissures between the two? In what ways can the two modes inform and heal each other?

in another conversation with a friend, these questions are relevant to the above: what of the land-nation/nationalism-body connection? in what ways does the writer embody the land? how does the indigenous writer straddle the notion of nation - this artificial construction of empire? how does she use language to work through the disembodiment engendered by nation and empire?

our conversation meandered and we never arrived at an answer. but this story brought tears to her eyes:

she learned how to use her body to embrace the land when an Aeta elder took her by the hand and led her inside the circle of dance among her people. just follow the dance, she told her. as her mind let go and her body obeyed, she entered another world and when she re-emerged she was no longer her former self. the dance had transformed her forever. now as she sits across from me and i'm trying to coax her into an articulate rendering of this dance, she begs off:

there is no language for this, Auntie, she tells me.

oh surely we need to language this, i insist.

but i sense that she is right. it is my inarticulate body that yearns to dance.

until then, i can play with syntax until i learn to overthrow the teleological order that enthrones it.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Depression comes from our Indigenous Soul’s allergic reaction to a human life relegated to an uncourageous spiritual mediocrity. After all humans are not rational by nature, but sane only when blessing. And blessing is an ecstatic non-economical activity that means being willing to feed the Holy in Nature and the seed that feeds us all. Sanity and beauty go together. We cannot stay depressed once we’ve become worthy enough to have even our beautiful failure accepted as a feast by the Holy in the Earth. But these Holies eat only delicious beauty and depth. Mediocrity kills the Holy in Nature. Every creature, storm, star, plant and grain of dust in the Natural Universe feeds every other particle of the Holy in Nature with its unique beauty and substance inherent in their diverse Indigenous natures.

The unique beauty that we humans have to give comes either from our opposable thumbs or the complexity of our voices sung with speech intended as a gift. This is what is meant by ritual and is an innate part of our nature. But for humans with intact souls, true ritual is not for human benefit, but a way for them to use their innate natural capacity for ecstatic blessing by making beauty to feed the Holy in Nature. We need to give beautiful gifts to what both feeds and amazes us. Even our failures, cultural stupidities, losses, confusions and clumsiness for having never been shown, can be metabolized into a compost from which to sprout the best gifts of all to feed the Flowering Earth, animals, plants, stars, ocean and air.
— All Blessings -- Martín

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