Archive for the ‘Achuar Tribe’ Category

Look how much we have lost

May 18, 2010

We have just returned from leading a 10 day Leadership Journey to Ecuador (http://www.ascentinstitute.com/news/tlj.html).

Christina and John chatting in Puanchir's home (c)2010 Scott Stout

At one point during our journey we were sleeping under mosquito nets on the uneven dirt floor of the village shaman’s house, deep in the Amazonian rainforest.  In the morning, I was chatting with our Ecuadorian guide Christina when she said something that landed with a profound impact: “Look how little they have; look how much we have lost.”

Puanchir, Ishpingo village, Achuar Territory, Ecuador (c)2010 John M. McConnell

To put that statement in context: we are in the home of Puanchir, a man whose entire collection of belongings adds up to less than any one of us has brought with us for a two day visit.  He began his life as a warrior, fighting to protect his family from nearby marauding tribes.  He was present when the first missionaries arrived, bringing with them medicine, education, religion, and the radical change of moving from scattered home sites into small villages.  He went on to become the village healer, learning the traditional ways of using plants and ancient ceremonies to heal mind, body and spirit.  His village is on a dirt airstrip where light planes occasionally come and go, but he has never left the rainforest, nor seen the ocean, a town, or even a mountain.

Despite these drastic changes (all in one lifetime!) he remains fiercely committed to preserving the traditional ways, yet open to the knowledge and benefits of what the developed world offers.

Puanchir generously offered to share his home and to do a ceremonial healing for us, and he welcomed our support for his own physical ailments (he is in his 70’s but doesn’t know his exact age as there were no calendars during the first 1/2 of his life).  He has had essentially no “western” health care in his lifetime.

Puanchir does spend every single day with his family.  His life is sustainable and in harmony with his surroundings.  He works when he needs to and he naps/relaxes whenever he chooses.  He is so attuned to his body and the natural rhythms of life around him that he can sense animals and insects without seeing them.  He can hit a banana at 10 meters with the dart from a 10′ long blowgun.  He is committed to preserving the natural environment, not as an abstract idea but rather because he knows that a healthy environment is essential to a sustainable future. For everything and everyone.

He knows the legacy he is leaving for his family and village.  We witnessed him coaching the young men from the village with a balance of his fierce commitment to preserving the traditional knowledge and a patient and loving presence.  Most importantly, and despite the fact that at his age he lives with constant pain, the biggest gift that Puanchir gave us was his laughter.  We couldn’t help but join the giggling whenever he started to chuckle.  Some forms of human communication are universal and need no translation.

No one, least of all me, would suggest that we abandon our modern homes and move into thatched huts.  Yet I do long to experience and be much of what Puanchir has in his life.  Deep daily connection with family and community.  Knowing clearly his purpose in life.  Peace with who he is and who he isn’t.  Freedom from the damaging myth that we are independent — he knows we are all one.  Understanding that he already has enough.

***More posts re: our Journey to Ecuador coming soon.***

For more pictures of our journey visit: http://homepage.mac.com/jmac999/JourneyEcuador/index.html

Leadership Journey to Ecuador 2010, Ishpingo, Ecuador. (c)2010 Virginia Rhoads

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Reflections from the Rainforest

December 4, 2009

[Post by Virginia Rhoads]

I recently co-lead a journey deep into the Amazonian rainforest.  We immersed ourselves into this living, breathing corner of the planet and had the rare opportunity to interact with an indigenous tribe.  Here is an excerpt from a journal entry I made after my first encounter with the jungle and the Achuar tribe……

Stillness… deep stillness… inner quiet allows me to hear so many sounds, chirps, burps, creaks, shrieks, bellows, whirrs, flutters, mutters, snaps, cracks…. Leaves falling down and these are leaves the size of the top of a coffee table… always falling and falling yet there is no deep layer of rotten things… only growing and growing… so much growing… the vines from above and draping down all around me… and the earth below my feet reaches up to itself above my head…

The depth and the darkness of the Achuars’ eyes, and the light therein… always just a split second away from great laughter and mirth… such a presence… only the present to be in, observing, being, and such laughter… all us sacred… the Directions are already called and have been in our service and we in theirs since time before time and will be so long after we have departed… regardless of what has been and what is to come…

Nature has timed her downfalls perfectly… for all of us… for our initial entrance into the forest and the first tippy canoe ride up river… for the long afternoon of resting and yoga to the sounds of rain unlike any of us have ever seen or heard or been cleansed by… the cacophony of sounds and sights, and the uncanny birds who flaunt their calls and their wings and their flight for our joyful witnessing… all we are to do is to keep the channel open and keep breathing… in and out and in and out… to keep paving, without pavements, the way to begin to hold it all and at the same time feeling so full in our eyes and ears that we also are aware of how thirsty we all are for all of this to integrate into our bodies our skins our lungs…

The pre-dawn rituals… such a sacred space that begins all of their days at a time when most of us would still have called night, is their morning… good morning begins at 3am and well, why wouldn’t it… a fire that is every day sacred … and they are we and we are they… what you see, is you… what I see, is me…

The heartache in listening to Achuar being spoken and the call and response and the beauty and strength and power in the exchange… a dance of beingness… a dance of power and deep connection to the sacred that is the everyday…

Listening to the Call… opening myself up to hearing this Call, to being this Call without blame or shame or embarrassment or wishing or begrudging or anything other than just allowing it to build and flow and then to receive it and to keep expanding to hold it all and at the same time to rejoice and share and marvel at the opportunity right here right now… all there is to do is to be Life, to engage and listen and then step in and step into and keep breathing and embracing and speaking …

Virginia in Amazon rainforest.