Indigenize!

Rekindle Your Wild Joy and sense of deep Belonging through spiritual ecopsychology and the arts, incl. bioregional awareness, animistic perspectives, strategies for simple living, & low/no-tech DIY fun.

Baby Birds Toilet Trained June 29, 2011

 The birch tree outside my dad’s house contains a homemade birdhouse that regularly hosts three families, in sequence, per year. Right now, a sparrow family is in residence.

You might wonder, how do the parents keep the nest clean? They do go in and pick the poop out with their beaks, then throw it overboard. This I knew. But watching them now, I witnessed something that really surprised me.

These baby birds are toilet trained. (Or is that ‘nest trained’?)

Instead of a little head with a gigantic mouth, I saw one of them back up to the door. His or her tail poked out of the hole, then cleanly dropped a poop outside. Then the head reappeared, ready to accept a new tasty bug.

Isn’t that something? I’d thought the little piles of bird poop at the base of the tree were from the parents, but turns out that’s not solely true.

Good job, mom & dad!  Yet another example of how “bird brains” are far more sophisticated than we’ve generally been thinking. And how, as many parents think, toilet training is indeed for the birds.

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If you don’t believe me, here’s a YouTube video where somebody else caught a baby bird deliberately pooping outside the nest (right at the beginning – around 4 seconds in). The woman filming that seems as surprised as I.

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Animals Predicting Earthquakes March 30, 2011

Yomiuri Shimbun reported that after the recent earthquake in Japan, this 12-year-old Shih Tzu, “Babu,” saved the life of her beloved 83-year-old Tami Akanuma by forcefully and steadily leading her to the higher ground – before the first wave of tsunami came and swallowed their house completely.

It’s always a good idea to heed other animals on matters like this.

Similar examples abound: pet dogs and cats acting nervous like they do before big storms, bees leaving their hives, catfish violently flailing around, chickens ceasing to lay. Days before an earthquake devastated the Greek city of Helice in 373 B.C., animals including rats, snakes and weasels all were seen deserting the place.

I wonder what sort of senses they’re using that alert them to seismic activity. Could they be feeling changes in the earth’s electromagnetic field, electrical changes in the air? Maybe that has a scent! Or can they feel (or even hear) the change in vibratory frequency caused by minute early shifts deep in the soil itself?

Such evidence can easily be dismissed as anecdotal, but it seems to me that heeding what we observe in the more-than-human world is the basis of not only good science, but often of survival. Such a practice is how we’ve learned about a great number of the plants that formed the basis of some of our strongest modern pharmaceutical medicine, for example.

In documented instances where other animals’ warnings about earthquakes were accurately read and then acted upon, their ‘advice’ has proved quite beneficial. For example, according to National Geographic (Nov. 2003), “in 1975, Chinese officials ordered the evacuation of Haicheng, a city with one million people, just days before a 7.3-magnitude quake. Only a small portion of the population was hurt or killed. If the city had not been evacuated, it is estimated that the number of fatalities and injuries could have exceeded 150,000.”

I take comfort in the fact that we can still rely on these elder species for excellent advice. All we have to do is pay a lot more ongoing, respectful attention.

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(Thanks to Tomoko Parry for sharing Ms. Akanuma’s story.)

 

Really Seeing a Tree January 2, 2011

I travelled much in my youth,

and continue to today.

In Cambridge, Massachusetts (near Harvard Square)

between the papers and discussions,

I walked outside

seeking asylum from the reeking of my mind

(my brain so numb I had to consult my notes

to remember my own words!)

The first time out all day.

A one-block walk was all I had time for. But grace

has a way of descending in strange times.

I met a golden maple,

glowing with evening light leaves

and I stopped, entranced. For years I stood,

looking up, feeling her skin, awed.

Looking at the dancing lights, looking at the bark patterns,

the movement, the subtle colors.

And Seeing,

falling into the beloved through the eyes.

It would take me the whole day

to draw the intricacies of this thumbnail-sized piece of bark

in as much detail as I could,

and even then that would not begin

to scratch the surface of what was there.

How long would it take to illustrate the entire trunk?

let alone the branches, the roots, the changing leaves,

the entire living body of this tree?

And then there are the changes!

Every day brings new differences —

“Oh no, I have to do the painting over again,

that leaf has been nibbled; another is yellow today!

And the third from the left is gone!”

Several lifetimes would be needed

just to observe this one tree,

and even then skimming, a thin summary

of its possibilities.

Amongst travelling people, strange shifts can occur in fall.

I have left lovers because I felt bored with them,

thinking I knew all there was to know

yet now

I feel ready to settle and be contented

just really knowing one tree, and

its birds who visit,

its leaf changes,

its singular song in the wind.

Falling into one millimeter of bark

at a time —

This for the first time is satisfying;

it’s enough.

Maybe I am approaching middle age:

Small things hold tremendous import

and easy ability to renew my soul.

– Tina Fields

 

post-perspective April 5, 2010

Writing these posts about perspective is reminding me to attend, attend, attend.

The implications are so far-reaching.

Today’s example:  I like to read while eating, but today I’m realizing how insulting my lack of attention is to the beings whose bodies make this food; who gave their lives so that mine might continue. Also, this multitasking likely contributes to my being not so skinny, since when we’re unconsciously shoveling it in, we don’t notice we’re satisfied. And to top it off, I’m also not giving proper attention to the wonderful gift of words from the minds of my favorite writers.

So this afternoon, just now, I ate outside and put down my book. Instead, I felt the sun and looked at the clouds while smelling and tasting and feeling the textures of the good vegies and rice and tempeh and garlic pickle as I ate, feeling all of this invigorate me.

Lots of ‘ands’ here!

Wait, here’s one more: And as I was eating, this crazy bird kept looking at me from atop a nearby roof. Then she flew over and landed on the fence right by my head, peered down, and deliberately gazed into my eyes. I tell you, I doubt that would have happened were I still in the world of my book; and even if it had, I would not have noticed.

That moment felt like a gift; a pat on the head from the universe, training me.  Good girl! Nice job!

Meta-observation: I think I’m finally learning how to blog. Short is okay! Man, it’s rough overcoming the learned tyranny of academia, where everything must be perfect; never show anything until at least the third draft, etc. Some of the stuff I’ll post here will indeed be very well-thought-out; I care about craft and beauty. But it’s also very cool to just say something quickly, like a conversation with you, O mysterious one who is reading this now, in my future. (Twilight Zone music here.)

You’ll know the difference and will be able to find what you desire.

And everything will still be spelled right.

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Molecular Dancing with Water April 4, 2010

 

SAC Medusa logo (art by Tina Fields)

My Animistic Architecture post showed you the venue for the conference I recently attended, the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness, aka SAC. This is a group I’ve been part of for the last 15 years or so (omg!) This one will give you a taste of what it’s like to be there.

SAC conferences are much more fun than ordinary academic conferences. It’s an interdisciplinary group interested in exploring issues of consciousness – in other words, a collection of really interesting people looking at weird topics in a rigorous way, a task requiring both imagination and bravery. There is also often a lot of laughter.

Besides papers, SAC always includes hands-on experientials so we can play with each other’s ideas. Among those I attended was biophysicist Beverly Rubik’s session on changing the molecular structure of water with our intentions and emotions.

Beverly Rubik. (Photo: QuantumTantra@blogspot)

It was fascinating. Rubik began by putting an eyedropper full of tap water into her GDV (Gas Discharge Visualization) machine that can digitally illustrate water molecules.  (We all wanted one afterwards, of course. You too? Start saving: they cost $10,500.) She then digitized the image and projected it on a screen, showing us the various aspects you can examine. These include shape, area or size, brightness, density, uniformity, and dimension. The images were simpler than Masaru Emoto’s, being more of a computer model or kirlian photography than a snowflake-like photo, but striking nevertheless. (I wish I had a picture to show you, but I don’t.) “Water carries information via its microstructure,” Beverly informed us. “Tears of joy are different from tears of grief.

Beverly also showed us images of other types of fluids, including blood. This was an eye-opener. Since our bodies are mostly water, and the blood most of all, it can also be looked at in this way – as another form of water. She said we are much better off drinking fresh water and eating living foods, no surprise here – but one reason is that water tends to cluster together, and therefore it gets big when stagnant (like when it’s been bottled); so big at times that it can’t enter our cells. And if we’re dehydrated, we’re compromised in many ways, including loss of the ability to regulate subtle energy.

It turns out that old Weston A. Price was totally right with his take on how a non-indigenous diet alters the physical structure of our bodies. The molecular structure of the blood of a person who ate according to those standards was beautiful and clean and strong, even though he was in his 80s. The blood of a much younger woman who drank Coke at every meal for the past 30 years (I am not making this up!) was laden with anomalies, like little microbes swimming around in there and the cells clustering together for dear life, forming snakes. I was reminded of those old maps showing dangerous territory on the edge of the known: Here there be dragons. Apparently, the blood of teenagers who visit fast food joints a lot exhibits the twisted degeneration usually seen only in a much older person. Yeesh. I went out the next day and bought a lot of fresh vegetables.

Fujiwara Dam water, before prayer. (Photo by Masaru Emoto)

Fujiwara Dam water, before prayer. (Photo: Masaru Emoto)

Then came the fun. As a group, we brainstormed ideas of how we might attempt to alter this information, and then conducted three experiments. First, we put love into it, doing so by gathering in a circle round the water, holding our hands out to it, and chanting “aum.”  (I know: how California can you get, eh? <g>) Many of us reported feeling tingly fingers and “seeing” tendrils of light move from the water to each person and back again.

The second round, we reminded the water of its original perfect nature, and expressed gratitude to it. This was my idea. I felt very sorry for the water at this moment, a bit ashamed about the dissing way we’d been speaking about it right there in front of it. I mean yes, it is city tap water and does indeed have pollutants in it, but really!  Would you like all of your flaws to be magnified like that by a group? If it were me, I’d start to shrink away, forgetting that I had any good qualities at all. I wanted this water to glow, knowing it was appreciated. So I suggested that we remind it of its original pure state; how beautiful it is, and how grateful we are to partake of its essence and be given life by it. This time, we held hands in a ring and one by one, following the suggestion from my linguist friend Matthew Bronson, we spoke aloud our gratitude. I went first, and sort of went into a bardic trance, invoking its Beauty in what someone later called “a breathtaking prayer from the heart.” It did feel good. There’s something right about opening one’s throat to spontaneously sing the praises of that which gives us life! Other spoke similarly in turn. The room grew hushed and the atmosphere in the room felt rarefied, uplifted. And afterward, I knew that water was holy.

Fujiwara Dam water after prayer. (Photo: Masaru Emoto)

The third round, we did what Beverly had been setting us up for all along: to try and turn this water into wine. The blasphemy angle alone tickled the heck out of me. She showed us graphic representations of the molecular structure of Chardonnay, and we tried to replicate it in this water using our minds.  The group asked if I would start with another imaginal invocation. So I verbally led them through the path the water takes to become wine: its arising to the surface through a spring high in the Sierra Nevada mountains and also simultaneously falling as rain, then the way it burbled down through the groundwater and traveled aboveground down through the various river tributaries, eventually making its way to the Eel River, down the Russian River, and into the fertile soil of Sonoma County, where young grapevines eagerly sucked it up, growing tendrils and leaves and fragile blossoms that are visited by eager bees and insects and eventually ripen into ever-growing, ever sweetening fruit, warmed by the sun and watched over by the moon, cycle upon cycle, until each grape is perfectly juicy plump and tart and is picked and crushed by loving hands, then laid to bed cradled by oak, until ahhh! finally tasted, here, by us. Well, you get the idea. Eeny meeny chili-beanie, presto change-o zap! Heeeere’s wine.

We sat back down as Beverly digitized the images and then showed us the corresponding data for each of our experiments. We had indeed changed the molecular structure of every sample of water we had “touched.” The wine was about halfway there: not as big or bright as Chardonnay, but much more than the original tap water.

Since thoughts and emotions are actually changing the molecular structure here, and this is precisely what was being tested, Beverly was concerned that during the experiment nobody was present who came with intent to prove their extreme skepticism. Despite extreme rigor of execution and documentation, this type of experiment is routinely shut down in university settings by people in positions of power with such a mindset, effectively trading fascinating inquiry for the maintenance of “turfdom and serfdom.” I couldn’t help thinking of Emoto’s images paired with Rubik’s observations about the effects of water on our health. It would be fun to show such people these images with the caveat, “This is what your snotty attitude is doing to your cells!”

Then she suggested we conduct an addendum to the experiment which had never been done before: to see if we could taste the difference between the waters. Physically, remember, it was all the same stuff: tap water from the sink in that building. There was only enough charged water in the test tubes for two tasters. Matthew and I volunteered. (I did it mostly because I really wanted that second water in my body!) We turned our backs as Beverly and her partner Harry Jabs rigged up tasting cups of each of the three and then administered them to us in random order. Matthew and I might get the same kind at the same time or we might not. All we knew is that we would each receive one sample of each experiment, three in total, with no duplication.

My strategy was to ask the water to reveal itself to me, then open up as much as possible to it in my subtle bodies – like when attempting to see/feel in diagnosis for shamanic healing – before tasting it. Each water did seem to have its own unique quality. For example, one had a tart-and-sweet taste to me, and was sort of light too, not unlike sauvignon blanc. So I guessed this was the wine. Matthew and I both reported “sweetness” in that round of samples. These turned out to be the wine for me, and for him, the sweet taste was love. Awww!

We also received “plain” tap water to cleanse our palates in between tastings. We found this delightfully amusing. But you know what? We experienced something remarkable here. The first tap water seemed quite neutral, as one would expect, but the ones in between the charged waters actually tasted bad to us. Wild, eh? I thought that phenomenon could be my mind playing tricks, so drank the third sample with that in mind. And indeed, it did not taste bad to me at first – but then it developed an aftertaste!

In the end, Matthew got one right and I got all three. Statistically, this is unlikely but not hugely significant. The wildest, most interesting thing of all was that we actually could taste differences in these waters.

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Rubik’s experiment speaks volumes about how the quality of our attention matters.

We all know this and experience it every day, yet we forget. We fall into the tyranny of multitasking instead of offering our full attention to whatever presents itself. Are we listening to one another deeply, or with half our minds somewhere else – perhaps even planning what we’re going to say in return instead of hearing the original idea?

Another aspect: Objects created with full loving attention carry that special energy with it forever. Compare, for example, a handmade journal vs. one that was mass-produced by sweatshop labor and machines. Even if the former’s materials are not the finest, the personal energy and love put into its creation infuses it, conferring a subtle quality that makes it far more valuable.

When we touch a lover or small child or someone in pain, the way in which we do it; the consciousness behind the act, seriously impacts the way the touchee will experience it. A touch with deliberately concentrated love behind it can be instantly healing, soothing, invigorating; like a drink of cool water or a warm fire in winter.

Such attention can mean survival, too – for example, noticing the colors and scents of our food. Get hold of a bad fish and don’t notice that until it’s half eaten? Too late! Pay more attention next life.

Cultivating the ability to attend can also lead to terrific fun, because it means we notice things that nearly nobody else does: Gargoyles gazing down from the second floor corners; the different iridescent colors on street pigeons, now suddenly recognized as beautiful; the funny way your friend says “wool.” The world is so rich with weird and interesting things to enjoy, and beauty to be found in the most unexpected places. Auntie Mame had it right: “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

Of course, when playing with perspective and really looking for a different angle on things, one sometimes gets more than one bargains for…

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The other side of Mt. Rushmore 

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Happy looking!

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Animistic Architecture April 3, 2010

I recently attended the 30th annual conference of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness (SAC), a subsection of the American Anthropological Association, held this year at UC Berkeley’s Faculty Club.

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This is a lovely old building very appropriate for such a gathering of psychonauts; one of those made by master architects from the last century with one foot in the Dreaming.

In its rafters are dragons…

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UC Berkeley Faculty Club's rafter dragons

Tim Lavalli presenting beneath the rafter dragons
Tim Lavalli presenting beneath the dragon posts

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…and even the door catches on the floor seem sentient.

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UC Berkeley Faculty Club sentient floor hinges

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Faculty Club floor in context. Would you have noticed their   faces?

Here a view of those door catches in context.  Would you have noticed their faces?

(Look along the line where the two wood grains meet. They’re right in the middle, where the doors will come together.)

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A lot of speeches and discussions have taken place in this place. (For a description of one of them, see my post Molecular Dancing with Water.) If everything in these lovingly-crafted buildings, even the seemingly-inanimate bits, is looking back, does that mean they’re also listening? And if so, how much knowledge must they have amassed in their years here at this center of learning?!  I would not want to have to argue with them, that’s for sure.

Delights like these little faces in the architecture are everywhere; the world is just waiting to open its petals before your imagination.

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Perspective March 25, 2010

I love it when my perspective suddenly gets shifted. You know? This is the basis of all good jokes; the aha! that surprises us into delighted laughter. You expect one thing, but quite another pops up.

The teaching tales of Mulla Nasruddin (likely dating from the 1200s!) exemplify this sudden destabilization of normal consciousness, using it to lead listeners toward enlightenment.

A neighbor comes upon Mullah Nasruddin frantically searching for something under the light of a lamp post in the dusty street outside his home.

“Mullah, what have you lost?” he asks.

Nasruddin replies, “Oh, it’s terrible. I have lost my keys.”

The neighbor, being the kind person he is, gets down on his hands and knees and begins to search with Nasruddin through the dust. After a long time, the neighbor asks Nasruddin, “Mullah, are you sure you lost your keys right here in this exact part of the street?”

“Oh no!” says Nasruddin, “I lost them somewhere in my house.”

“What?!” exclaims the neighbor, getting up creakily. “If you lost them in the house, then why are we wasting our time looking for them under this lamp post?”

Nasruddin replies, “The light is better here.”

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I imagine that the ability to shift perspective also forms the basis of real communication; when we suddenly “get” what the other person means.

The first example, the joke, was an aha; this one is an ohhhhh! Now I get it.

Both are basic seed syllables that Hindu wisdom say are the core of “ah” and “om,” the breathing in and out mantras that make up the living universe.

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It feels enlivening to notice the potential for animated engagement everywhere.

I find it especially fun to be reminded that the world is looking back.

Everything from hairpins to hinges…

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Cute animistic window hinge

Animistic hinges in their original context. Can you find them?

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…not to mention the more-than-human world, which is always watching.

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And I feel, from experience, that the more we respond to these beings, objects & processes surrounding us, the more they will respond back in kind.

Free play in an animate universe.

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