Transcript: Podship Earth Episode 033: Faith
JARED BLUMENFELD: Welcome to Podship Earth. This is your host, Jared Blumenfeld. Of the 7.4 billion people on the planet, 6.2 billion are religious. They have faith. Rather than diminishing, the number of worshipers going to churches, mosques and stone circles is actually increasing. For the last 2000 years, religion has been the dominant moral force in society, shaping everything from how our laws are written to how we behave. There's been no greater influence on the shape of our modern civilization than religion. Nowhere is this more evident than our relationship with nature. In Genesis, the first chapter of the Bible, God said, let us make man in our image after our likeness and let him have dominion over all the earth. This concept of dominion gave us the permission we were looking for to tame the earth, to cut the forest, to divert rivers, to drill for oil, to throw plastic in the ocean, to do whatever we needed to do to prosper. This faith-based dominion over nature has set us on the collision course on which we now find ourselves. Each step along this path of dominion reinforced our separation from nature. Each century, we became more and more certain of our superiority. In 2018, we've reached a level of technological sophistication that gives us powers once attributed to Gods. Our arrogance has blinded us to the reality that we are intimately connected to nature. Ironically, only religions have the power and followings necessary to reduce the impact of the damage to our planet. In 2015, Pope Francis wrote an Encyclical, which is a Papal letter sent to all Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, on the care for our common home. The Latin name for this document is Laudato Si, or praise be to you. In this groundbreaking work, the pope is speaking to 1.2 billion Catholics when he writes:
“Mother Earth now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts wounded by sin is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evidence in the soil, the water, in the air and in all forms of life. We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth. Our very bodies are made up of her elements.”
The pope lays out a rallying call to action that's based on religious beliefs and ecological knowledge combined. I'd strongly recommend that each of you read Laudato Si. This week, we're exploring how the welds religions from Catholicism to the Brahma Kumaris to Muslims and Pagans view nature in working with their communities to heal the environment. Last Sunday I was asked to give the homily at St. Columba Catholic Church in Oakland, California. The church was celebrating Saint Francis Day, so the service was on the street. I was overwhelmed by the sense of community and joy that each member of the congregation projected. The event was organized by Laurenteen Brazil, who runs the Church’s Environmental Ministry, and is the zero-waste specialist for the city of El Cerito. I start by asking Laurenteen how she combines the two passions in her life, recycling and religion.
LAURENTEEN BRAZIL: I have a passion for the environment and it just spills over into everything that I do. And I want to make sure that I'm also helping others to get on board so that everybody knows what they need to do to make a difference to save our planet.
JARED BLUMENFELD: So today you kindly invited me to give the homily and, and before there was a blessing and there's a real sense of energy, of like, the spirit.
LAURENTEEN BRAZIL: I would call that the Holy Spirit, like you said, and for me when I pray, you know, I'm praying to the trinity and I'm asking that force to help and guide me into direct me in my life. And that energy is, I feel that's how our God lets me know that, that he's there with me and that helps me and it blesses me.
JARED BLUMENFELD: When you talk to people about your faith, how do you encourage people to think about their own faith?
LAURENTEEN BRAZIL: I guess I want to be a conduit, but I don't want to impose. So, I, you know, when I ask people to come to my church, I just invite them. And I don't ask people what their faith is, or you know, how they want to practice. I just tell them come and come and see our church. We're different and we're Catholic, but we are very different than a typical Catholic church. We're a little more radical and we're very open and we are very welcoming. I want people to come and experience our church because we're trying to be that to the community as well. And then planning our Earth Day festival is another extension of community. An opportunity for us just to spend time with each other and have fun with each other andeat with each other.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Were you excited when Pope Francis came out with Laudato Si? I mean, you'd been a Catholic, you've been working on environmental issues and then the pope comes up with this encyclical that really is pretty groundbreaking.
LAURENTEEN BRAZIL: I was very excited and impressed and how he wrote it out and it's so thorough. I was very excited, and it was validating. But you know, there are still a lot of people even here in our parish that they are not completely convinced about, they don't understand our mission to pray and act, and to reduce the negative effects on our planet. They still think it is kind of odd. So, there's still a lot of work to be done. I think it's wonderful that the Pope did write that, and it helps.
JARED BLUMENFELD: And what would you encourage other Catholic churches or other faiths, like how can they do what you're doing, which is really getting the congregation involved at different levels?
LAURENTEEN BRAZIL: So, what we're doing here is we actually have a ministry that's devoted to the environment and environmental justice and then within our group it's like a committee here. But we have a mission and we're planning out how we're helping to educate our congregation, our parishioners. We started first with having composting and recycling, having our infrastructure for our waste. And we still have to work on education because when you look inside the bins, it's not exactly correct. So that's the next step. We have water bottles that we had created metal so that we can stop depending on bottled water. So, it's just little steps so that they avoid Styrofoam, that they're using paper products, that they try to avoid as much single use plastic as possible. So other churches will need to have their ministers, if they have one pastors and their deacons involved as well because it has to be a group effort, but we also have LED lighting in our church, and we have a mission to do other things to help green our church so that other churches just need to start with a group and then figure out what their mission is. Start off small and figure out what they want to accomplish that first year and then grow from there. So, I think next year we're focusing on education. We need to educate our congregation, our community, our parishioners.
JARED BLUMENFELD: What does creation mean to you?
LAURENTEEN BRAZIL: For me, everything starts with God and that he created us, and we are all connected, and he knows us. He has a plan for us. And my job is to figure out what his purpose is for me and I know I'm on the right track when I do something and how it makes me feel. And you touched on that too, it's how you feel about it and that Holy Spirit filling, that warmth that you get or the thank yous that you get. So, I know that I'm on the right path of my purpose when I'm doing things like helping to organize our Earth Day mass or helping to educate our community how to recycle and compost, figuring out what bigger thing we can do to help the community outside of our church. So, creation to me means love, and it means being open to direction and fulfilling your purpose, but you have to listen first to figure it out and listen and be open to being led to where God wants you.
JARED BLUMENFELD: To better understand how other religions are shifting their practice towards environmental protection, I meet with Golo Pilz who was born in Germany and has studied Raja Yoga with a Brahma Kumari since 1984. Golo lives at the Brahma Kumari’s headquarters in Mount Abu, India, for most of the year. Golo played a huge role in helping establish the Brahma Kumaris as one of the major users of renewable energy in India. I go to meet with Golo at the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center in San Francisco.
GOLO PILZ: It’s a very lovely sunshine day, and we're enjoying it. It's an old building and it survived the earthquake, and this is actually a little meditation space here because usually we sit here and meditate. And being a spiritual person practicing meditation, you are not necessarily far away from nature or from what's going on in the world. We actually very much connected. One central part of our understanding is that we are all connected to the world and to the environment. What we think, what we feel our inner world reflects into actions and into the outer world. And so, we are concerned as most of the people, about the condition of the world, and naturally, we're trying to inspire people to a change of lifestyle. Meanwhile, we're one of the biggest users of solar energy in India and also, we are participating regularly at UN climate conferences for 20 years since Rio, and we try to bring in the inner dimension, the heart. You can see the spirituality which is quite often missing in the negotiation process.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Why do you think that the UN now embraces the Brahma Kumaris and other religions at the UN?
GOLO PILZ: At the UN, they realized that climate change is such a complex, let's say dilemma. It cannot be solved with technology or finances or a strategy alone. The UN realized it's very good to work with the different religions and there has been an interfaith congregation which for many year years has met regularly at the UN conferences where different religions meet together and try to make their voices heard. And also try to use their connections into the people to bring the message of the United Nation for climate change. And the UN has realized that connection. I think 70 or 80 percent of the world population, they believe, or they are connected to one or the other religion. So, it's a mighty, I would say channel, and UN now has realized that and is working closely with us.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Tell us about kind of the research that you've looked at in terms of the subconscious dictating what we do and kind of remedies for changing that in the middle of our life.
GOLO PILZ: Recently, psychologists, they look actually into climate change and what they say is quite interesting. We are aware about climate change, we know the consequences, but somehow, we're ignoring what we have to do. We almost don't want to see it. And are a lot of research has gone into why that is happening. One of the reasons is that climate change often is packaged in a wrong way. It's coming with a message of threat, of disaster and doom and gloom. And people have the tendency, if they are confronted with an unsolvable problem, they ignore it. They don't want to hear it and of course, then they don't act accordingly. So, what we have to do is we have to educate people, create the awareness, what's going on, but give them also tools, or a message or an idea of what we can actually do and how we can on an individual level, on a family level or on a regional level, how we can make a change.
JARED BLUMENFELD: How can meditation, spirituality help us get through the times ahead?
GOLO PILZ: Well, at the UN, we talk a lot about resilience and inner strength and creating local networks. So, meditation helps you. That has been also proven, to strengthen your social competence. You are in harmony with yourself. You love yourself. And if you love yourself, you love others and you love nature, so you change automatically behavior because you don't want to destroy something which you love or which you appreciate. Meditation helps you to change habits. Psychology has done a lot of research and they found out when you meditate, you literally increase the neural flexibility, the plasticity of your brain. You're open to new ideas and you're able to get rid of old ideas or old behavior patterns. So, this is something also very, very important. We have to adopt a contemplative manner, a meditative approach, and we have to go time to time into silence and reflection. And this helps us a lot to change, to build up inner resilience, and that's what we need for the coming days.
JARED BLUMENFELD: For people who are listening, who've always been interested in meditation, they liked the idea, they want the benefits that you just described, what's a way of starting?
GOLO PILZ: We are practicing here Raja Yoga, which Raja is the king and Yoga means connection with the divine for self-enlightenment. So, it's a way that you connect yourself to the divine light, to the supreme being, and in that connection, you experience peace, love, compassion. Power comes and you feel on the safe side. You establish a connection with your true self. I'm a spiritual being of light. And you establish a connection with the divine light, with the supreme being, and these two connections that you understand your true nature, who am I and who is the divine being God, the supreme being. This gives a lot of self-assurance. This can give inner piece, and you very easily can face outside situations and be in a very relaxed state of mind.
JARED BLUMENFELD: I was interested in particularly how judgment exists or doesn't exist for you.
GOLO PILZ: We are touching the question of Karma. And Karma is a very deep question in Christianity. You call it sin. In India, it's called Karma. It's literally that whatever we act, whatever we do, even what we think we record it and it's not going to waste. If we do good things, we will at a certain time receive good feedback. If we do bad things at a certain time, negativity would come back to us. This is the sort of corrective element for the whole world. And we can see right now that we are receiving a lot of corrective input from nature. We can say there's a lot of Karma happening right now, a settlement of Karma, and it's quite a lot of negative Karma also, which is on the planet and which is on the individuals. That's why we face also climate change, which is a feedback loop of negative actions. In the past, we used wrong technology, we were greedy, we were not compassionate, and so on and so on, and now basically we have to pay for it. So, yoga is a method where you can settle your karmic accounts through a connection with the divine light. Literally, the shadows which are around you are being chased away, but it's not like a in the matrix film, like you throw in the red pill and sort of Bingo, things will happen. You have to sit and meditate, and you have to take the time out and when you establish a connection to the supreme light, and when you do that slowly, slowly, your life will change. It will literally harmonize, and your Karma will be settled, which you can experience that things will become more smooth. So, then, you are slowly changing the course or the direction of your life towards the light, away from the shadow, which is very, I would say, refreshing and makes you happy on the long run.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Golo, what type of environmental solutions are the Brahma Kumaris promoting?
GOLO PILZ: So, we promote a change of lifestyle. For example, you become a vegetarian and we all know that a vegetarian lifestyle is required in order to survive on the planet in the long run. Just yesterday, a big study was published by an organization in Netherlands called Rise, and it's quite clear that we use a huge amount of energy, space and resources to produce only 10 percent of the human protein which we are needing. So, if we could convert those areas and that energy to a vegetarian diet, we could easily feed the whole world and at the same time help the climate in a very profound way. It's said that 30 percent of climate emissions are related to the meat production. So, it's a big issue. We are of course, ourselves vegetarians. So, we are promoting that people look into that and then the other is living life simply. We all are aware when we open our cupboard, I have too many clothes, I have too many gadgets, I have too many things and sometimes they are books how to declutter and how to make your life simple again, you know, because people feel it's getting too much of gadgets around me. And so, we try to inspire people to have a simple life and only buy that which you really need. And if you don't need something more, don't throw it away. Maybe give it to somebody else who is in need, you know, to be compassionate. So live simple means have an appropriate lifestyle because in the West, our carbon footprint is actually way too high. We are producing the emissions for 150 years and China and in India they are new players on the field, but basically, it's us, the West.
JARED BLUMENFELD: So, what can we do?
GOLO PILZ: We really have to change our lifestyle. So, live simply. Another point I like very much is, open the heart. To bring change to the world is not about strategy, money, finances and technology alone. It's also about my heart and my compassion, and my love. And we would like to inspire people to open their hearts for other human beings and for the animals around us. Love, they say, is a very universal language and if you love yourself and you love the world, you don't have to do much. Love radiates from you like a light and it can do magic. So, we're trying to inspire people, be positive, you know, like you can always see something from a negative angle. You can say the glass is half empty or half full. Both descriptions are right, but they have quite a different emotion attached to it. When you stay happy and positive, you're actually healthier mentally and physically through this positive attitude in your mindset.
JARED BLUMENFELD: At the end of talking about meditation and the importance of being able to change bad, old habits and create new, better habits, tell us how you became curious about quantum physics?
GOLO PILZ: Well, I was always very interested in how the mind and the physical reality are interconnected. And of course, I came across quantum physics where a very interesting double slit experiment has been carried out where the observer ultimately decides if light behaves as a particle or behaves as a wave. And for 20, 30, 40 years, countless experiments have been carried out with plants, but also with many other things where mind matter connection has been proved. What does it mean? It means my inner world and what happens in the outer world, we are connected. There are many scientists now around the world who are actually calling for a paradigm shift. They say our consciousness is connected to the physical reality. There is a feedback loop. And in meditation, we use that as a tool, as a method that we send good thoughts, positive thoughts, good vibrations. You can say to the world, to other people or to my body. When I have a problem with my body, I feel a sickness is coming, I can pin articular send good vibrations, good energy healing thoughts to that particular area. And over the last 30 years, many times I've experienced that the power of thoughts is working, and many times I could resolve an issue just by sitting, relaxing, thinking a bit about it, and then creating positive thoughts about it. And that's what people want to know and understand that a change within them can bring a change in the world.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Today, there are nearly 2 billion Muslims in more than 50 Muslim majority countries and by 2060, Islam will likely overtake Christianity to become the world's largest religion. I sit down with Ameena Jendali, who is a founding member of the Islamic networks groug, ING.org. Ameena currently teaches a class on Islam at the San Francisco City College. Ameena received her MA in Eastern Studies from UC Berkeley. I start by asking Ameena how Islam views creation. So, tell us about how you personally and how Islam generally views creation?
AMEENA JENDALI: So, Islam views God obviously as the creator who created not just this earth but the entire universe and we're one part of the universe, and then created humans basically in charge of the earth, stewards of the earth. And you know, gave us that responsibility, like, here's the house, here's the keys, take good care of it. Ultimately the belief is that this earth and everything in it will come to an end and there will be an afterlife that is going to be eternal as opposed to this more temporary life. So, you're supposed to live in this life working for a just world and a good world, but with your eye on the afterlife as well. So, it's kind of a dichotomy. I mean, you have that in other faiths as well.
JARED BLUMENFELD: What role do nature and the elements play in Islam?
AMEENA JENDALI: So much of the Koran talks about nature and the whole universe, the planets, the stars, the sun, the moon, they all play a role not only in the Koran but in Muslims’ daily life. For instance, the prayers are set by the sun. So, in premodern times people would literally look out and be able to tell when it's time for the morning, for the noon prayer. So, it was very much in harmony with nature. The months on the other hand, are lunar, and again in a premodern time, people would be able to look at the new crescent moon and determine that that was the beginning of the month. So, it's part of the structure of worship. And then there is of course, this deep appreciation for everything in nature as kind of proof of God, you know, from some of the signs that are mentioned in the Koran. There's a chapter called the bee, a chapter called the ant, a chapter called the cow, references to different types of fruits and vegetables and talking even about some scientific facts that were not known until recently, such as the fact that all living creatures are beings come from water. So, water is the foundation of all life. God doesn't, you know, omit the detail of a gnat, for instance, which we all know how annoying a mosquito can be even though it's tiny. So, part of it is to show the immense power and creative ability of God. Part of it is to show also just the wonder of his creation and part of it is to send home that message that is throughout Koran, that, you know, worship me, glorify me. This is the science of my creation everywhere. And then, of course, the message to take care of my creation. There are many prophetic stories about animals and caring for animals. There's a famous story about a woman who was actually a prostitute, but she was said that she was going to go to heaven because she saw a thirsty dog and when she was getting water for herself, she gave water to the dog as well. So even, you know, this non-sentient being is important. You're not allowed to go kill animals for sport or to abuse animals or to harm them in any way. And even, I mean Islam does allow for slaughter of animals, but there's actually regulations about the way that you slaughter being humane, being quick, not scaring the animal, so there's that aspect as well, living in harmony with other creation.
JARED BLUMENFELD: The pope recently came out with this Encyclical on climate change, is there an intersection between Islam and the current teachings and a desire to kind of look at how to deal with those big issues?
AMEENA JENDALI: I'd say Muslims are kind of late to the game, just like they were late to modernity. And so unfortunately, just like cigarette smoking, it was banned here 34 years ago. It still hasn’t been banned in many Muslim majority countries. So, the good news is that, you know, maybe they'll be able to fast track some of those things. It's not going to take 30 or 50 years and there are projects like, I think it's Morocco that has a huge solar project. I mean it would be amazing if the Gulf would just go solar. So much potential there, right? Just cover the desert with solar panels and forget about the oil. If you think about the way that premodern people live, I mean so many of the things that our grandparents did, you know, just something as simple as washing out a plastic bag and saving it, saving everything, repairing things. I mean you can't even repair things. My printer was giving us a hard time and my husband's like, just get it fixed. I'm like, you know, but it's going to cost twice the amount to get it fixed than to just go buy a new one. There's just no incentive. But in third world countries, you can still fix things rather cheaply. We can do a lot more to really make it front and central because it is so important and there is so much in Islam that talks about it. So, it's a shame that we're not at the forefront or really pushing this.
JARED BLUMENFELD: How does faith work in your life? How does it motivate you daily to move forward?
AMEENA JENDALI: So, there's actually a prophetic saying that even if you're washing and Muslims are supposed to wash five times a day before they pray, even if you're washing at a stream, conserve water. So, something as simple as that. And of course, here in California, we all got used to the whole conserving, you know, keep a bucket in the shower and use that for other things. That definitely is something I try to do in my daily life in terms of just being conscious about not leaving a footprint. There's again, a Koranic verse that says walk lightly on earth. So, what does that mean? You know, trying to make sure that my trash is minimal, trying to make sure that I recycle everything I can. Trying to avoid buying things with packaging, trying to avoid buying things I don't need. I'm in a constant argument with my son who is a teenager and loves Amazon. He got Amazon Prime, so he's just started ordered on Amazon. Well, let me think about the impact of that. Just, you know, the shipping, the packaging, the boxes, but that's what we're being pushed to do in society. So even the smallest level is just an uphill battle, but I experience it in my daily life and I just really try to be thoughtful at every step that I take. And that does come down to, you know, my belief that I do believe that the existential challenge of our time is the environment. I mean, everyone's just talking about Kavanaugh and about this. It's the slow tidal wave that's coming towards us. We've got these hurricanes that are wreaking havoc. I mean, there's billions of dollars now. The wildfires here and that happened last year. I just feel like slow moving trains just don't gain as much notice and yet, you know, it's just shocking to see that people aren't worried about this yet.
JARED BLUMENFELD: in your daily life, how do you view faith and God and creation, independent of the environment?
AMEENA JENDALI: For me, going on a hike is worshiping God. And there'll often be events that happen. We have a lot of events in
our community and I'll be like, no, I want, I want to attend God's event, which is just going out. So, I think that nature is the house of God and I get closer to God when I'm in that house. So, the two are inextricably joined. I can't really separate them. I love nature. I love gardening. It's a challenge. I live in an area with a lot of deer, with a lot of gophers. And I, of course I'm not going to use anything toxic against them, but it's therapeutic. I mean there's so many studies that show just getting your hands in the soil, and again, a lot of these things you can go back and find verses that support them. There are verses, for instance, eat of fruit in their season, which if you shop at a farmer's market, you're not going to be eating a watermelon all year round or grapes from Brazil. Think of all of the impact of that environmentally. So, I can't really, you know, extract my faith from the environment because there is so much in it about the environment.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Maybe talk about the history of the relationship between science and Islam.
AMEENA JENDALI: The very first word that was revealed in the Koran was the commandment to read. Now the prophet himself was illiterate. So, he responded, I don't know how to read, but that really is the ethos of Islam. So early on, there was this just this massive creativity and interest in taking the works of the Greeks, of the Chinese, of the Indians, translating them into Arabic, learning from the Chinese how to make paper, and there was just this eruption of books where, you know, libraries in Qurtuba had 400,000 books. Personal libraries were in the hundreds at a time when in Europe, it was the dark ages. People didn't own a book. The term Algebra comes from Arabic. So much of our daily life - medicine, astronomy, chemistry, physics, architecture were impacted and the contributions for Muslims are great. And there never was this tension between science and religion that you saw in the Christian world because they Koran upheld science. It pointed to science as proof of God, not the opposite.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Finally, I check in with a religion that's been with us since the beginning, paganism. I meet up with Macha Nightmare, a practicing witch who is the author of 13 books, including Pagan Pride: Honoring the Craft and Culture of Earth and Goddess. Macha lives in the shadow of Mount Tamalpais, the sleeping lady in Marine County, California. As well as being a witch at large, Macha teaches at Cherry Hills Seminary for Pagan and Nature based Spiritualities. I start by asking Ms. Nightmare to explain why witches have such a bad rap.
M. MACHA NIGHTMARE: Since we've had 2000 years of bad press and that's why people think of green skin hags with warts on their nose noses. Believe it or not, the anti-witchcraft laws were still in the books in England until I think ‘54 or something like that.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Macha, how did you first get involved in witchcraft?
M. MACHA NIGHTMARE: I found an image of the divine feminine, and it just blew my mind. I never even considered it. I mean the best I could manage, you know, was Mary and a few female saints in the Catholic Church, but not anything anywhere else. It was very empowering for me and they are pretty much nature oriented. The wheel of the year, for instance, the big holidays, four of them in particular, the solstices and the equinoxes are celebrations of the cycle of life, but one of the kinds of paganisms there is, is goddess worship and there's a real big overlap. A lot of witchcraft is structured around the maiden mother Crone, which again, reflects the cycle of life: birth, initiation, consummation, repose and death, and circles around to birth. And you know that often it's pictured with a circle around it. Our shared values are what we have to really build on, not just religious wise, but in order to make the changes that need to be made to restore this world of some sort of balance, if that's possible. I haven't given up hope, but boy, it sure looks bleak at times.
JARED BLUMENFELD: What are your main practices?
M. MACHA NIGHTMARE: We do not have doctrine. We view all nature as sacred and for many of us, we see what we call the goddess. We see her as an imminent force permeating and surrounding everything. A lot of pagans are like healers. People do permaculture or gardeners or make tinctures, so there's a strong urge to recognize that and our ancestors were right out in nature. A lot of pagans do a lot of camping and a lot of outdoor work. We feel that we are part of nature, not separate from, not above, not below, not outside of. We're all used to be in the broom closet, but we consider that we are dependent upon nature and we are nature, we're not separate from. We are animals and we have animal qualities, so we really don't consider ourselves separate. Creating a sacred space is replicating nature in a sense, so air comes from the east and that's where the sun rises and that's where spring is and the south is fire. It's mid-summer, just scorching heat and no shadows. The West is intuition and dreams and less definable, as opposed to vision in the east. It's. It's more supernatural so to speak, which is where the sun sets. And so acknowledging those changes in your environment and in your world and we need all of those things. We need to breathe, we need to have our blood and tears flow. We need to have heat and fire and will, which is from the south and we need dreams and intuition.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Where do you practice Paganism?
M. MACHA NIGHTMARE: Our places of worship are also mostly in nature: groves, beaches, backyards, but also the kitchen, which is where transformation happens. The oven is the Athanor. The oven, the kiln is that heat is applied and what goes in is different from what comes out. So that's the cauldron, that's the womb, but most of the stuff is outdoors, which is in particular practiced and the term is skyclad, which means without clothes, clad in the sky, and that's not as common as it used to be. And it certainly isn't done in public. When you're naked, there's no difference between the prince and the pauper. There are no external trappings of status and there's a free flow of energy through the body.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Maybe tell us about the tree of life meditation.
M. MACHA NIGHTMARE: You imagine yourself as a tree and you send down roots from your soles of your feet and you bring up the nutrition and all the good stuff from the earth and it flows out through your head and arms like a tree. And you sort of create a groove if you’re circle of people standing there.
JARED BLUMENFELD: You mentioned earlier, Macha, that you wanted to read a Native American quote.
M. MACHA NIGHTMARE: It's very brief and it was written by a woman named Zitkala-Sa. She was a Sioux woman in the late 1800’s, and this is what she wrote:
“A wee child toddling in a wonder world, I prefer to their dogma my excursions into the natural gardens where the voice of the Great Spirit is heard in the twittering of birds, the rippling of mighty waters, and the sweet breathing of flowers. If this is Paganism, then at present, at least, I am a Pagan.”
This woman was an Indian woman and she was a writer. This was in Atlantic monthly in 1902.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Talking of natural gardens, gardening really helps me connect to the earth.
M. MACHA NIGHTMARE: Most of the people I know, who are gardeners, just can't live without it. And you know, they don't wear gloves. They put their hands in the dirt. It's feels good. A lot of people need to get out in nature for the solitude as well as anything else, to clear your mind. And when you're clearing your mind, I mean the fresh air that you're breathing is part of what's clearing your mind. You're out there, you know, breathing natural air and the trees and you can smell the growth around you.
JARED BLUMENFELD: So, Halloween is coming up soon. It seems like a time when witches get to really celebrate and even dance.
M. MACHA NIGHTMARE: The dance is a spiral which is a journey of renewal. Ideally probably, you want about 20 to 50 people, but some of these can be a thousand or more. When you do a spiral, you hold hands, and a leader leading left, you move inward and circle inward and everybody follows. Often, you're singing a chant or there's drumming or both, and then you turn, and you come unwind and when you unwind, you're looking face to face with every single person who's there. It's a very unifying experience. It’s that whole journey into the other world and back that happens in most rituals in one form or another.
JARED BLUMENFELD: The question I've been dying to ask is, do you have a broom?
M. MACHA NIGHTMARE: I do have a broom and I'll show you in a bit. The broom is a symbol of the wand, which is usually associated with the south. It's a tool for conducting energy. My broom is going to be a disappointment.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Why?
M. MACHA NIGHTMARE: Because I don't have a traditional broom, but they're really hard to twirl. They're not balanced and their heavy. You get blisters. You get tired.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Okay. Can I see your broom?
M. MACHA NIGHTMARE: It's about five bucks from target. Silver handle. Got a whole silver pole. It's light. It's balanced like a baton to twirl and it catches the light.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Thanks to Laurenteen Brazil, Golo Pilz, Ameena Jendali, and Macha Nightmare for helping us see the light. I'm tired of environmental groups and politicians preaching at me, and yet in the comfort of a congregation or a spiral dance, there is a space in which we can see a different path. For much of my life, religion seemed dogmatic, patriarchal and out of touch with how I felt, and that still is often the case. At the same time, there's so much promise building on the work of Pope Francis and so many other religious leaders in helping the 6.2 billion faithful restore our relationship with nature by replacing destructive beliefs based on dominion with more harmonious values that restore our interconnectedness with the world around us. Even the simple act of giving thanks at the beginning of each meal can change the way we feel and act. Next week, Cousin David and I travel to the Holy Land to meet with locals in Tel Aviv and Ramallah to find out if the other Jared is getting close to peace in the Middle East. Please share Podship Earth with a friend. Thank you so much for being part of the Podship Earth journey. From the entire Podship Earth crew, sound engineer Rob Spate, producer Nancy Ferranti, executive producer David Kahn, and me Jared Blumenfeld, have an inspired week.