Eulogy to a Dying Town

I stand at the edge of a desert cemetery watching the impressions that my feet make in the sand. It is a cool, sunny, mild winter’s day in West Texas. I look up at the ominous cypress trees and blink away the sun and then scan the graves that are brightly decorated with silk and paper flowers. “Even the flowers are dead,” I say to myself under my breath. And as much as I’d rather be anywhere but here, I have to admit that this is a victory, which is a horribly depressing thought. It is easier to mourn the dead than wonder about the dissappeared.  Continue reading

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Emailing Shamans, Critical Thinking, and Retrieving Souls

On Tuesday I emailed a shaman. That is a very bizarre sentence, when I say it aloud to myself I can’t help but chuckle, but the 21st Century is a very bizarre time and you can indeed contact them through that medium. I was interested in doing a soul retrieval, something I had first read about in Elena Avila’s bestseller Woman Who Glows in the Dark: A Curandera Reveals Traditional Aztec Secrets of Physical and Spiritual Health. The basic idea is that when you suffer a trauma or susto (fright) a part of your soul leaves your body leaving you disconnected or lost. This is very similar to psychotherapy’s concept of disassociation, but the difference is in therapy the focus is why and in soul retrieval it is where. Both interpretations seem valid, but from personal experience in psychotherapy, the constant rehashing of wounds and wrong doings can become rather self-indulgent. It seems that the shamanic practice is less concerned with why and focuses more on the practicality of bringing those pieces back together. It is difficult to say if analyzing the hell out of why we are dysfunctional facilitates the process. I don’t think in my case it hurt, but I also feel that most people who seek out therapy have a fairly good idea of why their lives are falling apart and maybe a soul retrieval would save a lot of time and grief. Continue reading

Mala herencia

I found myself in Portugal when the news of the ruling in the George Zimmerman trial hit the press. Portugal, the birthplace of the African slave trade (a fact curiously absent from most tourist guides), located in the Iberian peninsula, where the concept of “America” or the “new world” originated. So, it struck me as historically appropriate that this drama unfolded in Florida, where the first European set foot in what would be the United States. From that point until present day we have had to live with the consequences of that inheritence. Continue reading

On Death and Dying

This is actually a post I meant to do long ago, but couldn’t find the right words. I’m glad I waited because I had the honor of seeing a presentation done by someone who does death midwifery and home funerals. The amazing woman who does this was one of my classmate’s at Sacred Journey School of Herbal Wisdom and she introduced the concept to us on the first day of class. For months I thought that meant that she specialized in still- births, and because I didn’t want to think about death I didn’t inquire any further. I can say with confidence that after 5 months of this class my fear of death has diminished greatly, and I was dying (pun intended) to hear her final project presentation about using herbs in deathwifery. As expected I was blown away. She spoke about how the modern funeral industry has taken the beauty and ritual away from death and has turned it into a vulgar and very scary thing. As a death midwife she gently guides the dying to the other side (preferably at home) and helps them come to terms with their passing. She spoke of sacred rituals, spirituality and love and reassured us that death did not have to be so terrifying, in fact if we came to terms with it we could truly find healing. These are ideas I’ve toyed with in the past, but to have it laid out in such a clear way was incredibly helpful and therapeutic. They are offering a very affordable workshop in June and I am so bummed that I will be out of town that weekend, but I’m sure there will be more. This is something I’d actually consider doing as a calling, which came as a surprise because just a few months ago I was one of the most death phobic people around. Actually, maybe it does make sense because phobias are obsessive thoughts, but that is a whole other story.  Continue reading

Decolonized Mirror

Like most young women in the United States I have spent far too much time disliking things about myself. I did not like the shape of my body, my funny laugh, big feet, face that blushes easily or nerdiness. I don’t really remember when I stopped liking myself, but it was pretty early on. It seemed like no matter what I did I would never look like the girls in the magazine or have it all like the television promised I could if I just had the right products. I saw the women around me lamenting their fat, hating their faces and gossiping about each other behind their backs. By the time we hit puberty my friends and I were mirroring their behavior. I can’t tell you how many of my peers have struggled with eating disorders, self-harm, or low self-esteem which lead to all sorts of self-destructive behaviors. Highschool is still a blur.

The thing is…disliking yourself takes up a lot of time and energy. Time and energy that could be spent on making the world or at least your community a better place.  Deciding to like myself has been one of the most radical steps I have ever taken. It means I can’t be sold products I don’t need or pressured into activities that further colonize others because I am secure enough in myself to listen to my inner voice (a.k.a conscious). It means I’m less afraid to try something new because failure is less terrifying when you know you are enough. It means you can give of yourself without giving it all away.  Continue reading

Girls: On the Perils of Becoming a Woman on the Border

My family has called the Chihuahuan Desert home for a very long time. On a recent trip home I asked my grandmother how long, and she wasn’t exactly sure, but the rumor was that my great-great-great grandfather was a Spaniard who married an indigenous woman and that is how our clan started. I’ve always felt the desert was in my blood, encoded in my DNA and running through my veins. As a child I would look up at the clouds in the endless blue sky or watch a sunset exploding behind those barren rocky mountains and imagine that my great-grandmother had done the exact same thing. I roamed the same streets that they had roamed on both sides of the border. Even then Cuidad Juarez was considered a dangerous place, but all I have is fond memories of a multi-cultural, transnational childhood. For me  Juarez meant culture, music, markets, and a bustling city that though only seperated by one mile of distance and a bridge (and now a fence) was a world apart from my home in sleepy El Paso. I have always had a strong sense of place because I deeply belong to my landscape, which I know is a rare privilege in 21st century America. It is a gift that I am very grateful for. Continue reading