This article is an elaboration and continuation of Pagliwanag: Homecoming Teachings, and is the second out of three articles which will have a similar format. Each clarification article will describe the core of one of the axes in the Homecoming Teachings, then go into how one can get lost from the Centre, and finally how one can come home to the Centre using Revelation, Embodiment, and Practice. Please read the original article first so as to get the full context of this one.
These teachings can be learned and practiced by oneself if absolutely necessary, but it’s strongly advised to work them out with another person or a group of people. These teachings can be considered therapeutic, but they are meant to be collective suggestions and guidelines for healing justice, especially around personal and collective soul wounding (trauma) and the transformation of oppression demons (internalized oppression).
The Axis of Knowledge
The axis of the East & West is about our knowledge. When I’m writing about knowledge, I am talking about how we experience the world around us through whatever senses we have available from our bodies and our soul(s), and then how we interpret that with our emotional and mental faculties. These interpretations also are held up against our values and purpose, our community’s knowledge, and the wider knowledge of society.
For example, I am sighted, and use my eyes to see shapes and colours. With the use of the nerves in my skin I can feel the texture of what’s near me or on me. I am a hearing person, and with my ears I pick up vibrations that I call sounds. Then my mind begins to discern what all these things are, putting them into categories, interpreting them into larger patterns and making meaning out of them. This is the colour purple. This sweater is soft. The wind is blowing through the trees. But I also have a dream where I experience sensations and images just like when I am awake. I also close my eyes or stare off at a point when I’m awake and still receive visions beyond what my body can sense.
How I acquire or receive knowledge directly comes from my values and my purpose, which is at the Centre of these teachings. I value all my experiences and knowledge, and I value my ancestors and spirits, so I interpret patterns within both my dreams, visions, and sensations as also containing messages from my ancestors. I also interpret larger patterns. In addition, my knowledge of the world takes into account Service and Change. I am in service to my communities and I interpret patterns in hopes that there will be some gift I can return to my community with. Yet, I also know that the world and my capacity to experience and interpret the world is constantly changing, and to be open to the present as a constant updating of what I know and what I don’t know. Change also represents the cycles of being active in experiencing and knowledge gathering, and spending time to process and rest.
When individuals and communities are attacked by their personal demons, community demons, and/or oppression demons, the soul wounding (trauma) that occurs pushes people away from the Centre, and they get lost far into the East or the West. This means their reception of knowledge is no longer aligned with Service and Change, their purpose and their values, but instead becomes focused on Control and/or Irresponsibility.
For example, when I get lost in the Hermit, my desire to control my experiences of the world overrides my responsibility to the community around me. I want to limit my experiences of them– maybe out of fear, maybe out of spite, maybe out of boredom. This can look like literally spending as little time as possible with other living human beings, and not sharing the knowledge I am gaining through my own reflections, introspections, studies, visions, and dreams. Perhaps it can also look like refusing to reflect and introspect, but go through the days in an automatic routine, taking comfort in the control, even if there is no learning or growing, even if it only leads to self-stagnation and self-exile. When I am lost in the Hermit, I am forever in retreat.
When I become lost in the Fugitive, my desire to control my experiences of the world still overrides my responsibility to the community around me, but in this case, I’m not trying to limit my experiences, I’m trying to gain as much as possible, either in quality or quantity. I may throw myself into a new thrill, a new sensation, a new adventure every day, regardless of my commitments to my communities or to my long-term goals. I may completely focus on a substance or behaviour, and pursue it to the detriment of my body and my communities’ security and stability. Maybe I do this out of fear, or boredom, or restlessness. But no matter where I go, what I do, it’s never enough. When I am lost in the Fugitive, I am forever running away.
In the colonial world, the Hermit’s behaviours can be understood as dissociation and/or avoidant attachment styles. The Fugitive’s behaviours in the colonial world can be understood as addiction, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, and anxious attachment styles. However, whole communities in the colonial world can get lost in the Hermit or Fugitive, goaded by community demons and oppression demons.
Communities become lost in the Hermit when they create an “echo chamber” for themselves, refusing to accept new information outside of their shared world view. They are hostile to who they perceive as “outsiders”, and will exile trusted members of their own community if they try to introduce new experiences, evidence, or knowledge that could challenge or even add to the existing traditions. Part of this can be spurred on by oppression demons of racism and xenophobia, but some communities may have started off using this as a defense against such bigoted influence, and then become lost in the desire to control what people know and experience, instead of realigning with values and accepting that change is a part of growth.
Communities become lost in the Fugitive when they want to take knowledge from other communities instead of a respectful exchange. Fugitive communities become irresponsible to their own past and traditions, as well as to the boundaries of the communities around them, and instead want to control their knowledge and experience through expansion and conquest of others’ traditions. This can look like cultural (mis)appropriation and toxic tourism culture, but on a larger scale it can look like exploitative, neocolonial practices from corporations and non-profits. A complex web of oppression demons and community demons wounding a community culturally can push whole groups of people into running from their collective past — from the pain as well as the gifts — and into extracting to fill up an emptiness that seems unending.
The first part of the Homecoming Teachings, to begin a person and their community’s return to Centre, is Revelation — for the Axis of the East & West, it means developing, receiving, and seeking Knowledge.
In the colonial world, if you are a person whose community may also be lost or wounded, so they cannot perform a ritual or ceremony to help bring you back to the Centre, then you can start by learning about your community’s traditional knowledge and practices, an exercise of the mind. (The next article about Homecoming Teachings for the Underworld & Upperworld will go deeper into Ancestor Work, however you can also start with that work in the Axis of Knowledge.) Finding primary sources may look like information on archaeological digs, dictionaries written by colonizers who made “first contact”, and scholarly articles compiling research on existing literature on the subject. There may be documentaries, social media groups, and conferences where this information can be found. You can also research epistemology (the study of human knowledge itself), if that calls to you, whether it’s the Indian schools of thought on pramana or the Greek writings of Plato and Aristotle, or the European philosophers like Locke and Descartes. I definitely studied different epistemological philosophies, but found the most significant understandings were from my ancestry, in our creation stories and teachings I could find from ancestors and elders studied by European anthropologists. I also strongly encourage receiving a basic understanding on what is and isn’t cultural (mis)appropriation before beginning this search for knowledge, and also to understand knowledge’s ethical boundaries.
To connect to your heart and spirit, Revelation should also include a journey into the spirit world (if you are trained in spiritwork). If you are not trained in spiritwork, you can try a visualization exercise similar to what I’ve written below.
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Remember to set an alarm if you can, so that you can then return through the gate back to your Centre and thank and say goodbye to your new guide, before your next activity for the day.
Revelation is a constant unfolding, and you can also move on to Embodiment and Practice while you continue to develop an understanding of these teachings. You can also attend workshops or sessions that I run on these teachings specifically.
If you feel that you also need to bring your community into this Revelation, you can organize a workshop or skillshare about your community’s traditional stories and practices that can be facilitated by you (depending on how far you’ve continued in this practice or returned to Centre) or by someone that you know embodies the energies of Seeker and Visionary, and has the capacity to relay these Revelations. Having this group gathering, even if it’s not a formal ritual or ceremony, also supports your own Homecoming, in addition to your community’s.
The East & West Axis is connected to the front and back of our bodies. The front is the East because that is where the sun rises, and the front is when we face the day. The back is the West because that is where the sun sets, and when we lie down on our backs to rest. If you are nocturnal, perhaps the West represents your front, and the East represents your back. Regardless, the point is to balance the cycles of activity and rest.
Here are some embodiment activities that you can choose from based on how your body reacts. This means that your body expands, relaxes, or moves forward when you read or say aloud the activity, as opposed to a negative reaction that can look like your body contracting, stiffening, freezing up, or moving backward. You may also have a pattern that’s different from this that you’ve already observed in your body when it chooses something or refuses it.
- In a comfortable position (sitting, standing, or lying down), focus your attention and energy on the front of your feet (if you have feet and can feel them), and feel your attention and energy gather like a small sun, filled with light and warmth. Let this energy rise — spread from the tops of your feet up the front of your ankles, your shins, knees, thighs, genital area, palms, wrists, stomach, arms, shoulders, throat, face, and then over the top of your head. Now the energy begins to set — travelling down the back of your head and neck, down your spine and the backs of your arms and elbows and hands, traversing your buttocks, the back of your thighs and knees, down your calves and heels, to end at the bottom of your feet. You may also want to start at the top of your head and go down your back, and end with rising from your feet and ending at your head. You may not have or feel your legs and/or your arms, in which case simply focus on the body parts you do have access to. Give thanks and love to your body as you do this.
- If you are familiar with herbalism and crystals, you can ethically harvest or acquire herbs and crystals that connect to knowledge, dreams, and visions. If you want to create a representation of yourself to place herbs or crystals on, make sure that it has a front and back — perhaps a three-dimensional effigy or a doll, or a wood etching that stands upright, with the front and back clearly marked. You can make ointments or oils from the herbs and anoint both the front and back of your body, or take a herbal bath and wash both the front and back. Make sure you give thanks and love to your plant helpers and stone helpers as you do the work, as well as any elements you work with.
- If you are practiced with sigils or drawing symbols, and have a friend to help you, you can have symbols and sigils of knowledge, vision, dreams, and wisdom drawn on the front and the back of you, for example the front and back of your left hand, or on your chest and upper back. Make sure the symbols are aligned.
- If you are comfortable with and have the capacity for dancing and/or exercise, find a clear place with a mat or spongy floor where you can lie on your back and do stretches or move your limbs and hips to the music. Then roll onto your stomach and do stretches and movements that way, which can involve planking or doing push-ups. If water is easier for your body instead of the ground, and you know how to swim and/or float, practice floating and/or swimming on your front and on your back. The goal is to thank your body, the earth and/or the water, and orient to what feels pleasurable in the movement.
When you are doing Embodiment in a community setting, you or a trusted facilitator can do the above practices together, explaining before you begin that these activities have the intention to connect deeper into our values and knowledge. At the end of the activity, the group can journal together and have a discussion about what came up for them. Some communities may already have rituals and ceremonies that incorporate Embodiment activities as a way to bring individuals or their whole community back to the Centre.
Traditionally, many communities would have a respected person who receives visions and interprets dreams or a person that travels and gathers knowledge ethically that you could study from or apprentice to so that you could practice the teachings of Visionary and/or Seeker. If you don’t have that option, you could watch internet videos or sign up for classes involving lucid dreaming and dream interpretation, oracular divination, trance work, meditation and mindfulness (that honours the Asian lineage that it comes from), the etiquette of travel, traditional guest protocols, how to work with plant medicines, media literacy and critical thinking, and research ethics (“R-Words: Refusing Research” by Tuck and Yang is a great essay to read online). You can watch documentaries/movies and read articles/books on historical or fictional figures that embody your values as an ideal Visionary and/or an ideal Seeker. Lastly, I strongly suggest also keeping a journal or scrapbook to bring all of these practices together in compiling the knowledge you are learning and the wisdom you wish to preserve that aligns with your values and that may be of service to your communities. From these experiences, you can also come up with your own set of practices, and then journal what changes for you as you do the work and your practice transforms into habit.
Here’s examples of my own Seeker practices:
- No matter what I am doing, it’s always an opportunity to be meditating and intentionally experiencing the world in the present moment as it is, even while I am conscious of how I am interpreting everything through my thoughts, my memories of the past, and my hopes for the future. This practice assists me in being aware of all the different ways I am taking in experience and knowledge simultaneously while I am awake. It also helps me build a secure attachment with Creation itself, and that I am moving towards Creation and not running from it or myself.
- Whenever I exit my house, I am now a guest somewhere else, and try to act with courtesy and gentleness to the environment around me, even as I also take safety precautions based on my understanding of the area. When I am in a human-made area, I try to understand what the rules are (where to walk, what is for cars, which buildings can I enter, do I need money or ID, etc.). When I am in places that may not necessarily be human-made, like a forest, I try to give an offering or libation, or at least say “tabi-tabi po”, which in one of my native languages is just saying “excuse me, I’m passing through” to the spirits of that place.
- When I encounter new information and knowledge, I reflect on it critically, try to find other sources that can verify it, see if I can verify it myself through first hand experience, and then find community members I can share it with to determine if it is valuable and important to the thriving and growth of my communities.
- When I have a new experience, I immediately try to process it with a community member to see if it is something they’ve gone through before. This helps me and my communities understand how to make sense of the experience and to see if it is valuable and important to our thriving and growth.
Here’s examples of my own Visionary practices:
- I have a journal where I record all of my dreams, divinations, and visions. I study it from time to time, reflecting on the messages and wisdom that’s being shared, and checking in with my communities around their importance and value.
- I try to go on a monthly retreat, which can look like being in my own home or another location, fasting or on a special diet, having no contact with information technology or social media for at least 24 hours, being on a vow of silence, and spending the time meditating, praying, journaling, reflecting, doing spiritwork, creating something, and resting. I share what I’ve learned during retreat with community members during an appropriate time.
If you’d like your community to enact more Visionary and/or Seeker practices, you can (or find a trusted teacher/facilitator who can) organize a gathering or ceremony of group dream journeying and/or knowledge sharing. This could also look like a skillshare against oppression demons done as a seeker’s ritual, and a collective visioning done as a dreaming ritual or group retreat. I still struggle with getting lost in the Hermit and Fugitive all the time (though these days with the pace of capitalism demons and the internalized ableism possessions, I get more lost in the Fugitive), and it is so crucial for me to be in group retreats that help me realign with the values of my community, to understand the cycles of rest and activity and change, that I have made it my life’s work to organize retreats in service to my communities, so that we can all come home to the Centre together.
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