Friday, November 25, 2011

Awakening in Taos - The Medicine Path of Mabel Dodge Luhan

Medicine, i.e. the spiritual power underpinning our world, is all around us. I'm using Medicine in the Native American way as a power that does more than heal but also reveals and conquers.  But it seems that we must be prepped to recognize and receive it. This goes as much for societies as for individuals.

My husband Blue Spruce Standing Deer grew up dancing a game of hopscotch among several cultures and time periods. There was the ancient traditional world of his Tiwa people, the everyday world shared with the Taos Spanish culture and the more recent Anglo world. And for he and his father there was also the cosmopolitan world of Mabel Dodge Luhan through Mabel's husband Tony Luhan, his adopted Grandfather.

Spirit Song by Marti White Deer Song
Timing is magic. Mabel Dodge Luhan came to Taos at the right time for she and for Taos, and ultimately for the larger world as well. Does that seem like an exaggeration? After all the big and the little are often matters of uninformed human judgment. While talking to Producer, Director Mark Gordon recently we discussed how the “Awakening in Taos” project seems to be growing beyond being just the history of Mabel, husband Tony and their associates.

There is an archetypal undercurrant to the story of Mabel and Tony and this is what we who are involved in the project have been trying to not only understand but reawaken. It’s about much more than this one individual and her accomplishments. There is something very powerful about the story itself that so far no one has adequately revealed. This is what Mark and his associates are attempting to uncover. Of course the gossipy aspects of a socialite and her famous friends has been used to tell a story many times. Its as if by telling her tale the storyteller can participate in her world. But no one has attempted to help Mabel with her mission or even better take her mission to another level. Ever since I first encountered the spirit of Mabel this has been a mystifying concern.

This little town in Northern New Mexico holds a powerful secret much like a stone geode. On the surface it seems plain, even a bit scruffy. Inside is something surprising that sparkles with magic. It reveals as much depth and magic as you wish for or have the ability to take in. So far a few people have chipped away at the surface of the story just enough to know that the stone is hiding something seductively intrigueing. What is it?

I suggest that the problem is that this story is actually bigger than the characters of Mabel, Tony, D. H. Lawrence, Dorothy Brett, Georgia O’Keefe and all the other players in the drama. In reality it is still too big for those of us who are trying to understand. Mabel had the priviledge of opening a dimensional door. Or perhaps she held the distinct honor of taking notice that it was there. This aspect of her life has frequently been overlooked. Whatever her personality flaws may have been she started something big that points far beyond her own lifetime. She realized that it wasn’t merely she who would accomplish this task of exploring the territory that this shapeshifting door revealed. Whatever her personal weaknesses may have been we should not forget that it was Mabel who volunteered to open that door. Often she is judged as a rich bored and pretentious romantic mystic because of her choice to approach that door. But why isn’t she more recognized for her courage. After all at the time that she chose to move to Taos it wasn’t outwardly a very promising location for someone who wished to become a “mover and shaker” in Western Culture.

Here in Taos the year 2012 is to be the year of the “Remarkable Women of Taos” (and Northern New Mexico).I believe this is a timely recognition that the energy of this place is counter and complimentary to what is going on in the dominant world. Here in Taos we live in an alternative energy field. We are a shadow image of the greater culture and as such hold resources that will be needed as that so-called greater world grows tired and needy for a fresh infusion of energy. As the patriarchal world falters in the mud of smug rationality, exploitation and cultural arrogance, the qualities it has long overlooked begin to emerge from the shadows.

Places like Taos and People like Mabel tend to find each other. They have a common energy link. It's been a long time since Mabel's lifetime though. I notice that many visitors are not even aware of her story. Often they are surprised to learn that D.H. Lawrence and Georgia O'Keefe were part of her circle and although I always take visitors to her house many people haven't heard of her. There is still a story here and although it sometimes goes underground like a geyser it is about time for it to shoot up again.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Story as Medicine Power

My husband’s tribe is Tiwa of Taos Pueblo. They have maintained their identity and ceremonies for hundreds of years in the face of aggressive outside forces. They keep their most important stories and ceremonies secret from the outside world.
Medicine Song by
Blue Spruce Standing Deer
Even the most worldly of Tiwa people would never reveal these secrets to an outsider. The culture that I came from just can’t understand this. Everything in this non-indigenous world is for revelation and possibly for sale. I’ve listened as many outsiders asked tribal members questions about the beliefs of the tribe only to be given a circular non-answer. Eventually the asker gets tired of circling the bush. If they are too insensitive about the inquiry the tribal member may be forced to say that questions are not welcome. In the Euro-American culture it is deemed a compliment to express an interest in another’s beliefs. Having had a dualistic Christianity aggressively imposed on them for many generations, people from European cultures are now looking over their Church walls to find a more earth and life friendly set of beliefs. They are puzzled when they are confronted by a belief system that is not flattered but even threatened by their interest.

The essence of sacred ceremonies and stories is not something that can be revealed by a simple telling. A sacred secret is not a secret (although it can be) because its holder is being unfriendly or fearful but because its power is depleted and its essence squandered by spreading it too thin. And to reveal it to someone who doesn’t share the same sense of the sacred is merely to cast it to the winds like a dry leaf. But even though they may be searching for an experience of the sacred, those outside the walls of a culture bring their own usually unconscious beliefs with them like an invasive virus with the capacity to infect and destroy. It’s important to keep the Medicine safe.


As I tell my own stories I’m discovering how central to life they are and how stories empower or weaken us. They are not just a collection of random episodes in a life’s memories. They have the power to create or defeat. I am grateful for the ability to experience this process. A psychologist might interpret a story one way and a mythologist or anthropologist quite another but our stories do more than just fit the times of our lives together, they determine who we are in this life. And perhaps more importantly stories can be tools of healing, evolution and creation or the opposite. They are not static but in motion throughout our lives. Often we don’t think about our stories or recognize how they fit together to define who we are and our place in the world. Some of them we like and are proud of and some record grief and shame. Sometimes they are used to strengthen our sense of value and purpose, at another time transform suffering to an interpretation pleasing to the ego or on a grander scale, tribal or national pride. We also inherit stories from those who have gone before us. There are national stories tribal stories, family stories and personal stories all working like the wheels within wheels of a mill?

Stories define us to ourselves and define how we fit as individuals in these pictures within pictures. But stories should grow along with changing evolving times because the Universe and Mother Earth have their own agendas. Sometimes, the story no longer serves us as an individual or as a tribe or species. Our stories may be based on self-protective but fear-based lies and secrets, or just not big enough to allow for further change and evolution. All stories are a distortion of reality, but a potentially creative distortion. They can’t help but be so. Once we recognize this we can work with them. Stories are our interface with the events around us, and also a way of altering those events. Through stories we become co-creators of our world.

Being trapped in a destructive story or a story too small to last through a lifetime is a tragedy. And yet, many people are not aware that their stories are part of a creative process. It’s as if the personal or tribal story is the play and our personal story is about our role in this play. Unlike a traditional theater play, however, we have a place in the creation of the play as well as an individual role. Becoming conscious of the stories we are living gives us the freedom to participate in the creation of our futures.

All cultures have creation stories that explain how they define themselves. In one way or another many culture stories involve being specially chosen by the greater forces of creation to live and serve a place or divine agenda. But what part of a story is empowering, visionary and creative and what part is confining, self destructive or dead-ended? Be careful how you choose your stories and become aware of those that direct your life without your awareness.


Stories are so rich in potential that the same story may have many dimensions of meaning. But how can a story evolve in wisdom and power without the loss of a sense of place and purpose? It seems to me that this is central to our human condition. How can we be loyal to our ancestors and sources while continuing our ride on the creative waves of evolution? Again and again we humans stick to our story until it becomes a cage separating us from our future. It is so important that we go to the core of its meaning and not become attached to the exact form. Both individually and culturally it is unconsciously easy to stick to the story and not notice that the life has left it and it no longer serves the purpose it was intended to convey. As the Hindu mystics pointed out (literally) when one points a finger toward an object the purpose of this pointed finger is not the finger itself but the object it is pointing to.