Both Taos, New Mexico and Eureka Springs, Arkansas, are famously noted in US News and World Report, and other curated lists, as being go-to destination small mountain towns. They are also both desirable places to retire in. Undoubtedly both will become more well known when people are forced to leave flooded areas.
We visited Taos this summer and attended a Contemplative Environment Practice workshop at the Lama Foundation.
A main theme at the workshop was the interconnectedness of nature; humans included! There is natural unity within our natural ecosystems and nature needs protection and respect. We envision building a spiritual practice and interfaith retreat on the border of Benton and Carroll counties.
At Lama, in one workshop, we each got to know well a natural object outdoors (using all our 5 senses) while considering its origins, how it’s changed over time and who or what depends on it.
I chose a pine tree and thought of the Clark’s nutcracker and how one bird alone caches thousands of pine seeds a year and specializes solely on this food. The pine trees throughout the Southwest are facing decline by the invasive pine bark beetle. I imagined the fate of the nutcracker along with the pine tree and how interconnected everything is in nature.
Lama is a spiritual beacon and we were fortunate to have Rahaman lead us in a sweat lodge and share a pipe. Rahaman followed the traditions of his Lakota ancestors; choosing the right rocks to heat until fiery red to eventually place inside the lodge using deer antlers to carry them.
After being blessed with sacred sage incense, we each crawled in, on all fours, and left our egos at the door. Women go in first. Rahaman sat at the door and controlled what came in from there.
We are fortunate for Black Elk and other former Lakota tribal leaders who kept this ceremony alive by having it written down or by holding ceremonies without the American government or European settlers being aware of what had became an illegal activity.
The sweat lodge is a purification ceremony of body, mind and spirit. We were to call all beings who have suffered so we can suffer and pray with them.
We especially honored Wakan Tanka, or the great mystery, and Mother Earth and Father Sky. The forces of Yin and Yang are a universal spiritual realization, it seems. Many sacred Lakota songs and chants were performed as more rocks were brought in. For a while time fell away. Fortunately also, Native Americans honor the heart and you can’t mess up a song and it is disrespectful to argue over the great mystery’s mystery. Everyone is right!
We also drank sacred spring water by passing a ladle that was also used to create steam on the rocks. The smoking pipe was also passed around.
When leaving the sweat lodge, a magical moment happened when I walked back to our room and an American robin followed my path. I called the spirit of the robin into the lodge. It was truly amazing! I still can’t believe it. It came in a way that was truly profound.
Lastly, we also participated in women’s lodge and men’s lodge and any gender could be accommodated. These lodges are really talking circles and are a Native American spiritual practice. After being blessed with sacred herbs, we passed a crystal around, one at a time, and listened deeply and spoke deeply from the heart. My husband and I both felt extremely moved to speak and listen and drew close to our new friends and community formed in just under a week.
It would be heavenly to honor the sacred in Northwest Arkansas in this way. Sacred springs and spiritual traditions abound. Any takers for starting a contemplative environmental practice workshop in the Ozark Mountains in the next few years?
Fighting for Mother Earth, from the inside, and working on ourselves first can be the best fertilizer to hold up Mother Earth and all that is sacred.
Go to earthlovego.org and lamafoundation.org.