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This, my first week-long workshop with Jaichima and Rutury, was not only a time of discovery about myself, it was discovery of how they worked with people in a group setting. As I have written before (here), Jaichima’s and Rutury’s lineage runs deep in the Wixáritari (Huichol) culture. On this, my first trip to Sedona, the New Age culture was clearly prevalent in the area; so many people trying to direct others when they themselves were ungrounded and unfounded in any real guidance or teaching. In the periphery of all the Sedona hype, here were these two incredibly gentle and wise people, quietly going about their work without any flashy promises of enlightenment or instant realization. What they did do, and I had many occasions over the years to witness it, was to meet each person on her or his own level and gently point out the spiritual landscape around them. The walking through that landscape was entirely up to the individual. What I loved most was their way of teaching without dictating. They showed incredible sensitivity in being able to be fully present with each one of us, each in our own time and each on our own level. Frankly, I had a very strong love-hate relationship with the way Jaichima would show me what I needed to see, not by pointing it out, but by showing me where I could look to find it for myself. I loved knowing that she was showing me where to look for the deeper parts of myself, although sometimes I just wanted her to cut through my confusion and frustration and just tell me what to do. She never did that, but she showed me time and time again that she would support me while I figured it out for myself.

During the week we flowed from ceremony to ceremony. The times in between were filled with discussion, Jaichima’s beautiful story-telling, quiet times, good food, and of course, group dynamic. We went to various places in the area, some of them well-known and some of them not. At one point, we were at Montezuma’s Well. We were supposed to have had a ceremony there, but there were too many people. We went down the stairs to the well, anyway, and looked at one of the cave dwellings. It had graffiti all over it from a hundred years ago. The Ranger was giving a talk to a group of people and said it was kept there because “it’s a part of our history, which is more important.” He also said some other things that incensed us all, and I found myself doing a bit of a verbal battle with him. In reference to the original dwellers he talked about “these people not having the caring or sanctity for human life as some others” and put their deceased into the “refuse pile.”   I openly challenged him on that point, and the choice of his words. Jaichima and Rutury stood there in all their native dress and dignity, crying. I think they could barely stand to be there but would not let one person’s ignorance force them to leave. I probably shouldn’t have pressed the issue in front of them, but my fury at his attitude threw me in to a verbal battle with him. I couldn’t stop myself from trying to get this man to see that his choice of words was at the least, very poor. At last he did admit that the earth there is of limestone, and very hard to dig into, and that’s probably why bodies were not buried deeply—but to use the term “refuse”? I carried my anger for a while. I talked about it with our group and apologized for letting it show so easily. Rutury said that sometimes people need to speak up, and that my idea of writing a letter would be good. I calmed down as I walked; I kept walking in order to calm down. Then, down at another part of the Well, I apologized to Jaichima and Rutury again. When I got home, I did write a letter to the National Park Service and that Ranger was disciplined and relocated. He was replaced with a wonderful man who had the utmost respect for the Indigenous Cultures. Over the years, he and Jaichima became good friends and he was always respectful to her when she went to the Well.

Throughout the week, in each of the ceremonies that we did, I found more of my balance and discovered new ways of seeing myself and my relation to the Universe. Each ritual was dynamic and brought me further out of my fears and turned me toward my own possibilities. It would lessen the impact of them to try to describe them; they are really only for me to know. What is important is the result of them: I started to feel that I made sense. Through ceremonial connection with wind, water, air and fire, I was relieved of the fears and demons of my childhood and shown parts of myself that I could choose to embrace and nurture. Some of what I experienced was very uncomfortable, some of it was hard work, a lot of it was joyous, and all of it was freeing. At one point I had a vision that a huge black wolf came and stood in the mists of my childhood and ate all the painful memories. At another, I was shown a very precious totem. I was overwhelmed by the significance of it and that only increased when it was substantiated by Jaichima when as she hugged me good-bye, she said to me, “I know you know”.

The flight back to California was a good time for me to process the events of the previous week. I was full of hope and new-found courage. I was, for the first time, absolutely certain that my experiences over the years were valid and that I was not in any way crazy. I had received so many lessons and so many gifts over the years. I had just spent a week being able to experience beautiful ceremonies and receive incredible insight. My joy was tempered only by the humility I felt at the wonder of it all. Even though I knew it would take some time for me to fully understand all that I had experienced and learned during the previous week, I was ready to fully embrace my life in a new way.

Kyle and Mike picked me up at the airport late in the afternoon. As we drove home, I recounted what I had experienced, and the two of them shared their week-long adventures with me, without mentioning their surprise. After dropping me off at the airport the previous Saturday, they had decided that they needed to go and get something special as a gift for me when I got back. They drove up to the Sierra Foothills to a Native Arts Cooperative where we went often. Kyle found something that he wanted to get for me, but the people were reluctant to sell it to Kyle and Mike. Their reluctance was rooted in the fact that the artist who had created the item and left it there three years previously, had specified that it was for a woman. The owners of the store watched over the years as different people came and admired it, but no one asked to buy it. They tried to get Kyle interested in other things, but he had been immediately drawn to it and was set on getting it. It wasn’t until Kyle said that it was the one for Mommy that they all understood, and were very happy to let them purchase it for me. Mike and Kyle made arrangements with the people at the store, and during that week, they contacted the maker of the totem. He agreed to come in a week to be there and meet with me and tell me about the totem.

When we got home, Kyle took me in to my room, and showed me where he had placed the gift for me. On my altar sat the precious totem from my vision. We had not been in communication for the entire week, and even so, they had gotten it the day I left. That was days before I had taken part in the ceremony when I had the vision. Kyle had known before me. If a totem as precious as this can be possessed, it is my most precious possession.