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Muscogee Creek Wisdom: Always Remember to Wash Your Neck

Muscogee Creek Wisdom: Always Remember to Wash Your Neck

I never set out to be an author. It’s an honor for me to have the opportunity to continue to help share Bear Heart’s messages for humanity. Over the years I’ve received so many notes from people who report how his words that reflect basic Creek values changed their lives. This story is but one of so many of my own, and it involves Bear Heart and Tony Hill, a most-respected spiritual leader and Muscogee Creek elder.

ONE TIME Bear Heart, myself and a group were to have dinner with Tony. We arrived at his modest home in Okmulgee, Oklahoma where he lived with his daughter and several grandchildren.

After a memorable dinner and while Bear Heart visited with everyone, I went outside to share some of my art supplies with Tony Hill’s grandchildren. I was having such a good time with the talented natural artists ranging from 4 to 15 years old.

My heart was so open and happy to bask in the energy field of these young, Indigenous natural artists. When their mother appeared to check on her children, I had an experience of what I describe as a “blissful spontaneous extra-ordinary generous moment.” I took off a very special necklace made of Minnesota pipestone and turquoise from my neck and put it on the children’s mother. She graciously accepted it without a word.

Back inside the home, she began showing everyone the newly gifted piece of jewelry. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits, so I was taken back at the tone the father used to speak in their Creek language with his grown daughter, the mother to whom I had gifted the necklace.

I whispered in Bear Heart’s ear, “Why is he angry at her?” Bear Heart whispered back, “He isn’t angry, he is reminding her that she “still has to wash her neck!” Later, I learned that a principle within their culture taught that when someone gives you something of value, of beauty, an acknowledgment, don’t get yourself feeling so “uppity.” You don’t start thinking that you did something so wonderful that you are now a very special person, higher than others.

The power of this lesson has stayed with me for many years now. Being brought up in a society that values material wealth as a measurement of self-esteem, I felt a deep sense of relief to experience a people who value each other separate from their possessions.

Every time someone thinks I, Reginah WaterSpirit, have done such a great thing to dedicate myself to supporting Bear Heart’s work, I hear Tony Hill admonishing his daughter. I still have to take care of the mundane things in my world. I still have to say “Thank You” to the force in nature that brings both challenges and blessings. I still have to wash my neck! I am one of all living beings on this Earth; not lower or higher than another.

Until next time, I am Reginah WaterSpirit, medicine helper to Muscogee Creek Caretaker of Certain Sacred Ways, Marcellus Bear Heart Williams.

 

 

 

‘The Bear is My Father’, a celebration of Muscogee Creek Nation Spiritual Leader Marcellus Bear Heart Williams to publish in January 2022

‘The Bear is My Father’, a celebration of Muscogee Creek Nation Spiritual Leader Marcellus Bear Heart Williams to publish in January 2022

SANTA FE, N.M. — The Bear is My Father, a book that celebrates the life, teachings and legacy of Marcellus Bear Heart Williams, a Multi-Tribe Spiritual Leader and author of the critically-acclaimed The Wind is My Mother, will be published by Synergetic Press on January 11, 2022.

Offering a mix of history and spiritual wisdom, The Bear Is My Father: Indigenous Wisdom of a Muscogee Creek Caretaker of Sacred Ways is considered a love story between Bear Heart and a community that stretches across the globe. The late Muscogee Creek Native American Church Road Man had a talent for seeing people as individuals, and for making them feel seen and special in their own ways. The Bear is My Father contains the final words Bear Heart wrote before his “going on” as well as contributions from friends and family whose lives were forever changed by Bear Heart’s presence and work. In this new book, Bear Heart uses stories of his youth and traditional medicine practices to convey lessons and knowledge about living in harmony and with respect for all.

“Living a spiritual life, no matter what the practice or religion, offers freedom, joy, happiness, and confidence that everything is within our freedom to enjoy it,” Bear Heart wrote.

The book is co-authored by Reginah WaterSpirit, Bear Heart’s Medicine Helper and wife of 23 years. 

“Even if you never had the privilege of meeting Bear Heart or hearing him speak, you will feel his warm presence when reading these stories and get a feel for the depth of the man,” Doug Alderson, author of Seminole Freedom and The Vision Keepers, Walking For Native Americans and the Earth, wrote of The Bear is My Father. “The pearls of wisdom found in these pages can be spiritual guideposts for a good and fruitful life. I urge you to take a few steps down the path of this book and discover how much we all have in common.”

Globally renowned, Bear Heart was one of the last traditionally trained medicine persons of the Muscogee Creek Nation. Weaving together the knowledge of many traditions, Bear Heart was an ordained American Baptist Minister, Road Chief, and renowned spiritual counselor. Speaking in 13 Native American tribal languages, Bear Heart was considered a Multi-Tribal Spiritual Leader and was called upon internationally for his healing work.

When Reginah would ask Bear Heart exactly how he made his medicine, he always answered, “I don’t make the medicine, it was here before me. I’ve been entrusted to be a caretaker of certain sacred ways.”

 

Secret Drugs of Buddhism by Mike Crowley

Secret Drugs of Buddhism by Mike Crowley

Delving into the Secret Drugs of Buddhism

Did the Buddhists of the ancient world make use of shamanic plants and psychedelic sacraments in their sacred rituals? This is the broad topic that Buddhist lama and author, Michael Crowley, attempts to unfurl in his book Secret Drugs of Buddhism: Psychedelic Sacraments and the Origins of the Vajrayāna. Crowley’s book is the culmination of over forty years of research exploring the extensive historical evidence for the use of entheogenic plants within the Buddhist tradition.

It is often supposed that Buddhism is and has always been ‘drug-free’, and is rather something that is practiced entirely by one’s own efforts. This view of Buddhism can be thought to stem from the fact that Buddhism has largely taken root in global consciousness through the work of the exiled Tibetan leader and Buddhist teacher, H. H. The Dalai Lama. Nowadays, there is a common misconception that the Buddhism practiced in Tibet is representative of all Buddhism and that it is the default, normative version of Buddhist practice.  

However, the book focuses on an earlier form of Buddhism, known as Vajrayāna Buddhism. The Vajrayāna movement of Buddhism began in the 5th and 6th centuries AD. The scriptures of the Vajrayāna continually make reference to a sacrament called amrita, the term for ‘immortality’ in Sanskrit. The term amrita is significantly older than the Vajrayāna and was used within the ancient Indian scripture, the Rig Veda, (composed c. 2000 BC) as a synonym for soma, the divine intoxicant.

A Closer Look at the Vajrayāna

Drawing on scriptural sources, botany, pharmacology, and religious iconography, the book calls attention to the central role which psychedelics have played in Indian religions. It traces their history from the mysterious soma, venerated in the ancient Hindu scriptures, to amrita, the sacramental drink of the  Vajrayāna. Although the amrita used in modern Vajrayāna ceremonies lacks any psychoactivity, there is copious evidence that the amrita used by the earliest Vajrayāna practitioners was a potent entheogen.

A glance at the titles of Vajrayāna scriptures will find the word amrita again and again. Many Vajrayāna deities have amrita as part of their name and a liquid called amrita is frequently visualized in Vajrayāna meditations. Almost all the early teachers of the Vajrayāna are depicted holding skull-cups of amrita. Two “skull-cups” of amrita adorn Vajrayāna altars and a drink called amrita is consumed at all major Vajrayāna rituals. Hundreds of Vajrayāna deities are said to carry amrita in some form, whether in a skull-cup, vase, flask or bowl.

Consider, for example, the prominent meditation-deity Hevajra. He is usually described and depicted as having sixteen arms with every hand holding a skull-cup filled with amrita and in one of his several variants he and his tantric consort arise out of the amrita itself.

And yet, despite multiple references in Vajrayāna literature and near-ubiquitous depictions in Vajrayāna art, you may be forgiven for never having heard of amrita before. If you are, as I am myself, a practicing Vajrayānist, then you may have performed the Vajrasattva purification practice in which the body is (mentally) filled with amrita. But the actual nature of amrita, its origin and history, are rarely discussed, if at all. In fact, even a standard textbook which provides a detailed account of Vajrayāna Buddhism as practiced in India and Tibet has managed to overlook it entirely.

2nd Edition of Secret Drugs Coming Out Fall 2019

We are excited to announce that this upcoming Fall 2019 we are scheduled to publish the 2nd edition of Secret Drugs of Buddhism. Don’t miss out on our pre-order discount, and order your copy with us now!

Pre-order Secret Drugs of Buddhism

Interview on Adventures Through the Mind Podcast 

Learn more about Secret Drugs of Buddhism through this fascinating podcast interview with James W. Jesso, 2016. In this episode, Michael unpacks symbolism within the Vajrayāna tradition, examining the vast history of Buddhism, and retells the story of how the book came to be!


Upcoming Author Events

June 21st, 7:30-9:00 PM, An introductory explanation of Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayāna @ SF Dharma Collective

3 classes: Friday, June 21, July 5th, and August 2nd. The talks provide a basic outline for understanding the different philosophies, meditations, and practices of the three vehicles, as well as their historical context. Each of the three sessions will include a meditation session appropriate to the vehicle under discussion.

Want to know more? Check out the SF Dharma Collective’s Calendar.


More About Michael Crowley 

Michael Crowley was born February 26th, 1948 in Cardiff, Wales. He began studying Buddhism with a Tibetan lama in 1966, becoming an upasaka of the Kagyud lineage in 1970. In order to augment his Buddhist studies, he acquainted himself with Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Mandarin Chinese. Mike has lectured at the Museum of Asia and the Pacific, Warsaw, the Jagiellonian University, Cracow, the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His work has been published in Fortean Times, Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness, and Culture, Psychedelic American, and Psychedelic Press UK. In January 2016, Mike received the R. Gordon Wasson Award for outstanding contributions to the field of entheobotany. He currently serves on the advisory board of the Psychedelic Sangha, a group of psychedelically-inclined Buddhists, based in New York and he teaches at the Dharma Collective in San Francisco.


Praise for Secret Drugs of Buddhism 

Mike Crowley has manifested a delightful book on a topic rarely spoken of, and certainly never explored with such depth. With a combination of personal anecdotes, detailed historical research, and a large collection of traditional art, this book will encourage modern-day Buddhist yogis and mind-explorers to see their practice and its roots in a new way.  —Rev. Kokyo Henkel, Head Teacher, Santa Cruz Zen Center

Writing clearly, in the fashion of an investigative reporter, Mike Crowley unlocks the mystery of amrita, and answers, with previously unseen certainty, the question of whether or not psychedelics were part of historical Buddhist practice. Allan Badiner, Co-editor of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics

Psychedelic drugs in ancient Buddhism? Believe it. Don’t believe it? Read this book. —Clark Heinrich, Author of Magic Mushrooms in Religion and Alchemy

Exploring Psychedelic History with Don Lattin

Exploring Psychedelic History with Don Lattin

Don Lattin and publisher, Deborah Parrish Snyder

Changing Our Minds is one of the most comprehensive and up-to-date books on psychoactive substances, their socio-cultural trajectories of use over time and their place in contemporary society. Lucid, well researched and written, Don covers the global movement of scientifically-grounded exploration of how psychedelic drugs – such as LSD, MDA, MDMA, psilocybin, ayahuasca, ketamine and many others – have been utilized to treat conditions like PTSD, depression, addiction, and end-of- life anxiety.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of research into the therapeutic potentials of these substances. Lattin details the body of these studies, but also works to move beyond the technical details of the science and research, making efforts to acquaint the reader with the plethora of compelling characters who have made it their life’s task to help make others aware that these mind-altering, psychoactive substances can have positively meaningful, life-changing effects when used in an intentional, controlled manner.

Psychedelics Today recently interviewed Don on the subject: 

In this episode of Psychedelics Today, Don explores psychedelic history, covering his personal experiences as well as the behind the scenes details that led to him writing his new book Changing Our Minds. 

Listen to the Podcast Here

Lattin is able to weave a multi-layered narrative, skillfully incorporating the numerous perspectives involved in today’s dialogue on psychedelics, encapsulating insights from neuroscientists, psychologists, psychotherapists, spiritual practitioners and many more. He spans the landscape, covering territory from neuroscientists using LSD as a research tool to investigate the neural mechanisms behind consciousness; psychologists facilitating MDMA-assisted psychotherapy sessions; tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley micro-dosing LSD for cognitive and creative enhancement to consciousness explorers and spiritual practitioners using ayahuasca for their individual betterment.

Times are changing, and we have moved beyond the infamous ‘War on Drugs’ backlash response to the 1960s counter-culture. Many psychoactive substances are slowly on their way to being decriminalized, with the mental stigma and cultural baggage associated with psychedelics dissolving as they are becoming increasingly more accepted as tools for psychological, medical and spiritual growth.

Upcoming Author Event in California April:

SATURDAY, APRIL 28th 6:00-10:00pm – Join Don Lattin and other notable Bay Area authors at a Mad Hatters themed benefit cocktail party in order to raise money for the Walnut Creek Library. For more information and tickets, go to Walnut Creek Library Gala.

Praise for Changing Our Minds

Don Lattin’s Changing Our Minds is far and away the best book on psychedelic use and research available today… Lattin not only fully describes the important trends in research, but includes valuable back stories of the major researchers, and why they have given so much of their professional lives to such risky endeavors. Now, when people ask me, is there one book I can read about the multiple dimensions of current psychedelic research, I can say, Changing Our Minds will give you everything you need. — James Fadiman, PhD, author of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic and Sacred Journeys

Changing Our Minds expertly explores the healing and spiritual journey catalyzed by psychedelic psychotherapy through the courageous voices of those who are pioneering the study of these treatments. An essential read for those interested in the expanding field of psychedelic research for therapeutic and spiritual uses, this volume lands at a crucial time during the re-emergence of psychedelic research as we approach the mainstream, scientific acceptance of psychedelic psychotherapy and the reintegration of the legal use of psychedelics into Western culture. — Rick Doblin, PhD., Founder & Executive Director of MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies

About the Author:

Don Lattin is an award-winning author and journalist. His five previously published books include The Harvard Psychedelic Club, a national bestseller that was awarded the California Book Award, Silver Medal, for nonfiction. His feature articles have been published in dozens of leading magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle, where Lattin worked as a staff writer for twenty years.

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