From an interview with Kala Ambrose is an award winning author, intuitive and talk show host of the Explore Your Spirit with Kala Show.

Kala -
Tom Pinkson, Ph.D., is a psychologist, ceremonial retreat and vision-fast leader, sacred storyteller, and shaman. For 32 years he worked with terminally ill children at the Center for Attitudinal Healing in California, successfully integrating the wisdom teachings of the Huichol and other medicine teachers into the world of the practicing psychologist. Prior to that he helped start the second Hospice program in the US. His most recent work is about honoring elders through a program he created called “Recognition Rites For A New Vision of Aging” (working consciously with the challenges and opportunities of the elder years). The founder of Wakan, a nonprofit organization committed to restoring the sacred in daily life, he lives in northern California. Tom’s book is “The Shamanic Wisdom of the Huichol: Medicine Teachings for Modern Times“. More info at: drtompinkson.com.
 Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Dr. Pinkson about his work and research of the Huichol.

Kala: Hi Tom, thanks for joining me here on Kala’s Bohemian Blog. Your book is “The Shamanic Wisdom of the Huichol: Medicine
Teachings for Modern Times”. The Huichol tribe, is not as commonly known as other tribes, most likely because they were never conquered by the Europeans. What is the origin and history of the Huichol?

Tom:
The Huichol, known to themselves as the “Wixárika”, are believed to be descendants of a tribe of people caleld the Guachichiles from the state of San Luis Potosi, which is north central Mexico, a high desert area surrounded by mountains. They left the area traveling three hundred miles to the west on up into the high mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental to escape the invading Spanish conquistadores. They introduced their peyote-based religion to the local inhabitants and established their new homeland where they continue to live to this day.

Kala: Religious traditions seem to be transforming in this new century and in many cases, blending. I’m hearing that many people, when asked to describe their spiritual practice or belief, describe an a la carte type of belief system. They choose to pull in bits and pieces from various religions and blend these to create a new spiritual tradition. What are your thoughts about blended traditions?

Tom: I think it is fine to explore and learn from different traditions but the bottom line is that one has to have a practice that they build into their lives, a regular discipline that enables them to experience a spiritual communion and integrate the fruits of that numinous encounter into the acts and relationships of their daily life. Otherwise it is just empty words. The true test of one’s spirituality is how one treats the people in their life, how one treats Mother Earth, the animals, the plants, in other words, all our relations since in truth, we are related to all beings and to the visible and invisible forces of nature, experienced by indigenous peoples as spiritual entities.

Kala: If a person was interested in the ways of the shaman or following shamanic wisdom, what steps would they take to begin?

Tom: One could begin by remembering that the Earth is alive, conscious, has a spirit, as does the ocean, the mountains, the forest, the desert, the trees, plants, animals, the sun, the fire, the rain, i.e. The cosmos are alive and we are totally dependent upon their gifts for our lives. Thus we owe them a debt of thanks-giving for as we “feed them” with respect and gratitude – and this is precisely what many of the ceremonies and rituals are intended to do – they will continue to feed us and so the cycles of life continue on. But we modern folk have lost touch with this reality and think we can just take and take without giving back which leads to an imbalance, a disharmony, a breaking of the sacred trust handed down by the creation stories which is to respect, honor and “give-back” to the animating life-giving powers (spirits) of the universe for when we fail to do so, disaster is the result. We can see this disaster all around us today with the reality of global warming, increasing social unrest and other increasing ills of modern society.
Given this understanding a good place to start in following the ways of shamanic wisdom is to not just take but to give back. When the sun comes up each day, face it and give thanks. Before you take food or drink into your mouth, give thanks to the wisdom powers that made and give you the gift. Find a way that is in alignment with your integrity to open your heart and give some loving thankfulness that is real back to the creative intelligence that gives you your life and sustains it. Remember that you are not here by accident but through the grace of those powers. Remember that you are a sacred and worthy being, that at your essence you are love and that love is for giving. Take the steps appropriate for you to open to deeper listening for your purpose in being here and then try your best to live out that purpose each day of your life. That is a good start.
Kala: Describe for our readers the Huichol Medicine Teachings and how they are used in healing practices.
Tom: The spirit of the fire, known as “Tatewarí” – Grandfather Fire – is the Elder who leads the ceremonies and guides the human shaman. The Deer Spirit- Kayumari – is its ally and brings the wisdom guidance messages from the Fire to the human shaman who then follows the guidance that is given for healing. The ancestor spirits, the sacred plants, such as the peyote which is considered to be the footprints of the Sacred Deer in the Huichol holy land, Wiricuta, where it grows and is harvested in a yearly pilgrimage led by the shaman, are used to obtain communion with the spirit world through which instructions come for what must be done to bring about healing.

Kala: Chapter Six of your book is titled: Responsible Ecstasy. Can you describe this feeling and connection?

Tom: A natural human need is to experience ecstasy as a periodic part of life; its joyful, its healing, its celebratory, its exhilarating, it frees us temporarily from the imprisonment of ego identity and ego consciousness. When this need is denied or repressed, it can be expressed in toxic, destructive or self-destructive ways which are culturally harmful. Indigenous societies as the Huichol build in to their cultural framework periodic experiences of ecstatic release that are socially integrative rather than socially disintegrative. Responsible ecstasy refers to finding ways of meeting one’s natural need for this experience that are healthy, life-affirming and socially beneficial.

Kala: Our planet, mother nature, gaia, has been treated badly, poisoned, polluted, and the natural resources exploited. What do the Huichol say about the state of the earth and what’s to come for the future?

Tom: My spiritual grandmother Guadalupe de la Cruz, a Huichol holy woman now in the spirit world, told me over twenty years ago that Father Sun was slowly coming closer to the Earth each year because the “the People in the North had forgotten how to live in a respectful way with Mother Earth.” The Sun was coming closer to purify us so that we would wake up and remember how to live in a sacred way. She gave me the assignment to return home and help the people here learn how to wake up and live as we were intended to – in harmony with nature and with each other – all of our “each others”.

Kala: The Huichol are located in Mexico. Do they share any prophecies similar to the Mayan prophecies of 2012?

Tom: Many Native prophecies, not just the Mayan, speak to the coming to the American continent of a people who do not know how to live in right-relationship with the land, its peoples and its spirit. They speak of how disaster results from that behavior. As mentioned above in the words of Guadalupe there is the notion of the Sun coming closer to the Earth to purify us but it was not told to me in terms of a specific date. She also said, as I have heard in other prophecies, the final outcome is not yet determined. It depends upon those of us who are alive today and what we do. Purification is taking place but to what extent it will go and what will come out of it is in the mystery. We are in what Joanna Macy calls the “Time of the Great Turning” and each of us is called to wake up and do our part in shape-shifting destructive life ways to sustainable ones that respect and work in cooperative harmony with the powers of nature and with one another to create a world that works for all life and the generations to come.

Kala: Many of us are not able to travel and live amongst a shamanic tribe for any period of time. Given this fact, what insights on how to live a Shamanic lifestyle, can you provide that can be accessed and applied anywhere regardless of a person’s surroundings, including city dwellers?

Tom: Underneath the concrete of the biggest city, above the tallest building there is still the sky, the clouds, the rain, the sun, the snow, the moon and stars and beneath it all the Mother Earth. Each day no matter where you live and whether you can see it or not the Sun rises in the east and brings a new beginning that cuts through the darkness of the night. The powers of nature are still in operation no matter the location of our dwelling place and one can still give thanks to them for the gifts they give you of home, food, drink, clothes, breath. One can still seek to open the heart and remember that we are love and that we are here to love, to be kind, to be compassionate, to help those less fortunate than us, to be a conscious part of transforming our life ways to ones that honor life. We are all given the gift of creativity and special gifts of being that are uniquely ours, we all have a sacred purpose in being here. Set out on your own quest for deeper vision that helps you discover that purpose of why you are here and then do your best to live it out each day that you are alive.

Kala: If a Huichol Shaman could share their thoughts with us at this moment, what would they most like to say to the world?

Tom: As my spiritual grandmother Guadalupe would tell me when I went to ask her an important question – “Go ask Tatewarí”. Listen to the Old Ones Who Know – the Sun, the Fire, the Earth, Great Grandmother Growth, the Deer Spirit Kayumari. They will tell you. They will guide you. They are your Elders. But first of course you must give thanks for the gifts of your life. Do not ask for more until you have expressed your thanks for what you have already been given. Then there will be balance and right relationship. That is the way to go. Find and visit the sacred sites near where you live. Give them some appreciation. When you treat them right they will open up their wisdom and help you on your path.

Kala: Tom, thank you for your time, appreciate your insight and all the best to you in your work.
Tom: Thank you. Thank you for having me.