I'm in Vermont, now, camping in the woods near Montpelier, where my friends, Michael, Sarika, and my Goddaughter, Satya, live.
New Video Interview
A woman from Turkey, Filiz Telek, did his interview with me last autumn in the wetlands near Moab. She randomly ran into me in Moab, not knowing anything about me. And she decided to do this interview. She happened to complete this video and post it on my 52nd birthday a few days ago.
"The man who quit money" video interview by Filiz Telek
(I'm not cyber-savvy enough to embed a vimeo video in this blog)
Trickster Mind F---
|Lakota Trickster Iktomi|
A bit of notoriety is a funny thing. Every up is met with down, every yang with a yin. My ego has gone to great heights with praise and great humiliation with negative criticism. The extreme highs and lows can tear up a person. Both are illusion. The middle path of reality and wisdom is affected by neither, straying "neither to the right nor to the left." Canupa put me into great touch with the lows. In this way I can find my Strong Heart, between praise and blame.
Canupa, the Lakota Strongheart Society headman, and our main "leader", badgered me over and over in the past few weeks, and played continual, intense head games with me, crashing my confidence to zero. He badgered most everybody. Some days I loved him, some days I hated him. Some days I felt I was in some weird, abusive cult. I still don't get it, sometimes. Sometimes I totally get it. The wounds of the Lakotas and of all indigenous people run so deep it's overwhelming. That's part of the point. But the greatest point, hardest to grasp (or hardest to admit, I should say) are that the wounds of white people run just as deep, with the exception that ours are covered up and whitewashed. We, as all humans, were once indigenous, and lost it to occupation (e.g., Rome). But the Roman Empire continues to this day, and we continue the abuse until we face up to our wounds and our intense fear, hidden under our false show of confidence and power and domination of other cultures, with our condescending "love" and "spirituality".
Am I validating his methods? A horse can be trained with extreme
hurt, which is the usual accepted tradition, or with gentle kindness, as
the horse whisperer Buck Brannaman
showed us. From his own abusive upbringing he knew one could learn
through abuse, but much healthier learning through kindness and
respect. A valid human baby can be born through rape, or can be born
through loving kindness.
Confession: I reluctantly used money
One thing that happened at a fuel stop on our trip was Canupa told me to get him a couple Monster energy drinks, handing me money to buy them for him. He'd be the first to admit he is addicted to those things, along with constant junk food. He told me to get one for myself, too. He knew I didn't use money. I also had zero desire for a Monster energy drink, both because the thought of it sickened me and because it supported the ridiculous corporations that cause the damage we were supposed to be against.
But I used his money to buy his two drinks. He asked me where mine was,
and told me to go back and buy one for myself. Silly me, I did, not to please myself, but Canupa
. Giving my power away, as he liked to point out in me. I said to Canupa, "Kind of ironic, that it's an Indian who gets me to use money again, huh?" Naomi told me it was a lesson that money is just an illusion that doesn't matter, to neither love it or hate it, both of which give it credence. But deep inside my heart, I knew I gave into bullshit, letting myself be duped. I drank a third of that venom, thinking I should at least enjoy it. But I didn't, and its obscene amount of caffeine gave me a headache, so I threw the rest out, feeling weak and stupid. Another head game.
One thing Canupa likes to say is to not trust anyone, not even him. Trust only your heart, he'd say. After leaving him, I start really getting it. Stop being weak. Follow your heart, what you know to be true. You're not the strong wise guy you might think you are.
We could throw it back and look at Canupa's faults or motives. And this is part of the trick. As my friend Michael just told me, when you're stabbed with a dagger, what good does it do to analyze the motives of the one who stabbed you?
Second Money Test
The official Lakota Truth Tour
in Washington DC on April 16th, and we were heading back west, I had my
friends drop me off in Pennsylvania so I could hitch-hike up to
Vermont. (In reality, the Truth Tour is still happening).
Yes, I decided to have them drop me off at I-99 in Pennsylvania to hitch north. As we all hugged and said our goodbyes, Canupa handed me a wad of money and said, "buy yourself some food." This time he seemed genuinely worried about me, and he told me so, as if he were letting a lost little boy wander off alone, as if I hadn't been wandering unscathed like this for 13 years. I told him he knew I didn't use money, but he pressed it into my hand anyway, so I took it. Naomi asked me if I had enough, and I looked at her in astonishment, then said, "I don't usually use money", thinking of the Monster drink episode.
I put the wad in my back pocket and waved at them as they drove off with worried looks. Right or wrong, it felt to me like parents who had no clue what I'm about. But I did feel utter lack of confidence and feeling stupid in their presence, until they left. Then, when they were out of sight, I started feeling free and powerful again, intermittently with throbbing weakness and low self-worth.
A mid-aged man who happened intermittently go to Ecuador to do Christian mission work (Ecuador was where I was in the Peace Corps and where missionary friends of my family were stationed) gave me a ride to the next exit 15 miles up the highway. It started pouring rain, so I took shelter at the underpass. After the rain died a bit, I was back at the on ramp and a mid-aged woman with a Jesus card hanging from her mirror and Christian pop music playing on the radio picked me up and brought me to Altoona. She then handed me a wad of money and told me to buy a train ticket to Vermont at the station there. I didn't say anything, except thanking her profusely, took the money and stuffed it in my pocket to keep the other wad company. I never looked to see how much each was, but could see it was now $70 or $80.
For those of you familiar with my lifestyle, you know I agree to take money sometimes, to acknowledge people's generosity, and then I get rid of it usually by sun-up the next morning, either by giving it away or leaving it in a public place.
But this time something was happening to me. I was actually considering buying that train ticket, though I had zero intentions of buying any food. I was exhausted and disheartened, and the thought of a comfy train soothed me.
So I walked to the transit station. I went up to the counter, money in hand, and then I caught myself. "Listen to your heart." My Strong Heart would go deeper into hiding if I bought that ticket. A sense of powerful exhilaration hit me, I turned on my heel and walked past some homeless chaps to a bench and stuffed all that money into a crack in the bench and walked freely and joyfully back out to the highway, with a new sense of power. It's amazing how happy I felt.
And it felt like the Universe's blessings were showering down on me again.
More Good Samaritans
The next morning a young Christian youth pastor immediately picked me up. He was an ex-marine Iraq- and Afghan- war veteran who now worked with the homeless, and talked about wanting to simplify his life even more. He let me off in Philipsburg, PA.
By this time I was pretty amazed how many Christians were stopping for me, and all of them were fairly quiet and didn't seem to have any of the usual agendas except to help me. They only told me what I gleaned from them, and I felt a brotherhood with them.
In Philipsburg I found some nice wetlands and set up camp. I found lots of food in the dumpsters, including tons of Easter chocolate. Sleeping with the chirping frogs and singing birds, surrounded by trees, felt so luxurious and healing and full of gratitude. Nature is utterly non-judgmental, and nobody was scrutinizing my every move. The next morning I decided to stay and heal, feeling so exhausted. Between meditation and playing the guitar and listening to the red-wing blackbirds and frogs, I played the guitar and intermittently slept all day.
A man my age, who'd camped near me, came by, carrying his beer, to chat and listen to guitar. He was hurting from a divorce, and had lost his house and most his money. Amazing how much I hear that. He gave me a pouch of tobacco, though I don't smoke.
A 60-something man took me to I-80. I stood on that ramp for an hour and only 3 or 4 cars had gone by. Just when I picked up my backpack to walk to another ramp, a young woman stopped, got out of her car and gave me a hug! Some would classify her as a hippy. Her name was Kate and she was heading to Ithaca, NY, and said could probably find me a place to stay with her friends. We talked and sang with the guitar the whole way. That night she took me to a drumming/music jam. I met a 20-something Dine (Navajo) guy there who was planning to go on the Natives' Long Walk
from Washington DC to Alcatraz in San Francisco in July. he needed some tobacco, so I passed the tobacco on to him.
I got to Montpelier, Vermont the next day in two rides. I stayed with Michael, Sarika, and Satya for about a week and then started camping. It's been wonderful and healing. Satya is the cutest baby in the world and my God-daughter, and Michael and Sarika are among my best friends (Michael is in the book).
Finding my Totem Animal
I still felt I needed to process my post-Canupa PTSD, so I went on a 4-day vision quest on a mountain ridge, inside a vision circle 12-feet in diameter, with a two trees inside it. I wondered if a totem animal would come. The third day I was feeling exhausted, with a headache, filled with doubts, wanting to quit. That night my headache broke and I started feeling energized and centered in meditation. Between sleeping I'd sit up and meditate. Then I had an intense epiphany, a feeling of oneness with God and the purity of God, of total trust. It felt like light streaming into me. And right at that moment, an outward confirmation: an owl hooted so loud it scared me. The hair on my neck stood up. "Maybe that's my totem!" I thought. The owl hooted again, and with it, the thought, "No, silly, I'm not even in your vision circle. You're totem is coming tomorrow!" So I went to sleep, with my head against the center tree, feet faced west (till then I had slept with feet faced east).
At dawn, I awoke to see a shadowy animal inches from my head! A raccoon? No, maybe a badger. I lifted my head for a better look, but the light was still dim. He wasn't scared. Then he slowly walked to the other tree in the circle and climbed it. He actually looked like a kind of sloth! He started chewing on bark on branches, then bedded down on one. He stayed there inside my vision circle all day! He mostly slept, waking up now and then to scratch and stretch and chew bark. That afternoon, it felt time to go, so I said goodbye to him and left him in the vision circle.
Nest day, I looked up Vermont wildlife and realized he was a porcupine. I'd never before seen a porcupine without its quills bristled up, making him look sloth or koala-like.
Everything I look up on the porcupine totem is eerily fitting.
Everything about porcupines is what Canupa loved to "make fun" of in me.
Not even a bear or wolf or puma can mess
with a porcupine, despite appearances! I just couldn't feel worry when
Canupa said I was vulnerable and scared and could be a target for
danger. I knew with all my heart I had my protection. It's been here
for 52 years, after all, despite my aimless wandering around. I'm sure Canupa, that jiver, already knows that. If not, who the hell cares?
I learned so much in that Vision circle. But there's enough words here already.
A random magical hiker named Glenn came to my new camp twice. He brought me food, without my asking, today. An amazing person with amazing stories, still part of the vision quest. Lots more I could say, but there's enough words here already.
Yes, I'm finding my Strong Heart that got lost.