“Seeing sorrow and agony after having tasted peace and interdependence brings me to a place of solidarity and togetherness with those who are suffering.”
Spring greetings to you all! We had our first sweatlodge of the year at the Ranch today. Amidst the greening of the lawn, budding of trees and the return of two pairs of mallard ducks on the pond, Old Man Winter still had to remind us that he hadn’t fully walked out the door yet. The changing skies spit snow while we sat together praying, singing, and sweating in the lodge.
I got to thinking last night while preparing for the ceremonies today that this was actually going to be the first “sweat” we have had at the Feathered Pipe Ranch since India’s passing. That brought on a flood of feelings and thoughts about its significance with today being Mother’s Day. India had always felt that the sweatlodges we have at the Ranch were and are the most important thing that we do. She truly believed with all her heart, that this simple act of sitting together, praying together, and singing together was what really sustained the Feathered Pipe Ranch throughout all these many years.
In the last couple years of India’s life while she was struggling with multiple bouts of cancer, she could not actually be in the sweatlodge with us, but she always made a point to place her trusty and partially broken-down Adirondack chair central in the prayer circle outside the lodge facing directly towards the sweatlodge door. She would sit and pray and listen to the muffled songs as they crescendoed inside the lodge. She would sit with those who chose not to go inside or could no longer stand the heat and sensory deprivation. She comforted and made everyone feel welcome. She made them feel just as integral and a part of the ceremony.
Beyond it all, more than anything she remained present, present to the apprehension and fears of those who had never participated in such a ceremony, present to exhilaration and exhaustion that all felt when crawling from Mother Earth’s womb, and most importantly present to the heat and conscious discomfort – tapas, as we say in yoga philosophy – that the participants within endured while the steam rose from the glowing rocks. India’s presence and our presence with each other were and are truly what make it bearable.
This, to me, is truly the unspoken magic of the Feathered Pipe Ranch. Beyond all we do while preparing and conducting a season of retreats at the Ranch, it is the simple act of being present to one another that manifests the light of revelation and realization in the midst of our individual and collective unknowing. It is that which makes bearing witness to our own and the world’s suffering not only bearable but imperative to healing. Out of feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, offering the simple act of remaining present to our own or other’s suffering truly can and will change the world for the better.
In the midst of all the collective suffering we are presently experiencing in the world, from the war in Ukraine and conflict elsewhere in the world, to the injustice being felt by far too many here at home, we do have this power to remain present, comfort and find solidarity with the suffering. I invite you all to join us in this practice, even, and particularly when the way forward may not be clear. Our collective intent truly is what manifests tomorrow.
The Dandelion Effect Podcast
With this, we invite you to join Dandelion Effect Podcast host Andy Vantrease and our dear new friend Tim Sloffer. Tim is a small-town, public school teacher who came to the Ranch last summer and stayed with us for five weeks exploring a buffet of different approaches to self-care and being mindfully present. By the end of the five weeks, Tim felt like a family member to us all, playing with Zia, helping us with ranch chores, and generally just being.
Tim, like me, grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere in northern Indiana, where simply being together is the most valued of treasures, where sitting together on the front porch and watching the corn grow and weather roll in from the west are activity enough for most summer evenings. In some ways, I think it is where I truly learned the subtle art of presence. Come on in, take your shoes off, and stay awhile with our current episode of the Dandelion Effect Podcast, A Teacher’s Guide To Lifelong Learning.
Faith and Effort,
Eric D. Myers
Feathered Pipe Foundation