October 8, 2012 at 9:28 AM

Santa Fe’s Spiritual Salad Bar

"Santa Fe is a great place to be at any stage of a spiritual journey"

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It’s interesting. When you first move to the Southwest, you can’t just buy a cowboy hat and boots. Well, you can, but you will look exactly like you just got here from Dayton, and you bought the cowboy hat and boots at the mall, or on the Plaza, rather than at The Flea. You ought to wait a year, until you “get” this stuff. It will go better for you.

But you can buy your first Kokopelli and Howling Coyote during that first year—that is permissible. Dream catchers too, little wooden ladders, all that stuff. In fact it is advisable. Get them out of the way.

Then at some point, you cross some threshold, and Kokopelli becomes a leisure suit, and your dream catcher is a pink flamingo on the lawn, and you eventually sell all your “Southwestern stuff” in a garage sale to a nice couple from Dayton who moved to Santa Fe two and a half weeks ago.

Santa Fe spirituality has a kind of parallel cycle.

At first you are blown away by the Natural Awakenings-y Chinese menu of cool spiritually-based opportunities. Of course most of them are not ones you grew up with, so they sound exotic, even though a lot of them are offered by White folk whose “given name” is “Shanti”, or “Sajjan”, or “Burning Feather” or “Laksha.”

It’s all good.

The claims of the practitioners and the often colorful and exotic ritual or ceremonies knock you off guard, but in a way that feels good. “Wow, this is powerful!” “That weekend was very healing.” OK, not sure what those ubiquitous and way-too-oft-mouthed terms mean, but people like ‘em a lot. Art of Allowing. Cool for you.

But how many healings, how many “healing modalities”, how many “sacred ceremonies” do you run yourself through (from significantly different and not altogether consistent traditions) before they become experiential Kokopellies? Or the ceremonial equivalent of Hula Dancers at the Maui airport?

The answer? Not an infinite number.

The great, great multitude of practitioners keeps drawing in (in good conscience, with a pure heart, most of the time, I bet) the newbies to Santa Fe, or the newbies to spiritual questing. It is part of Santa Fe.

“So what, Jim—is that a problem?”

Nope. It’s just interesting. It may be just a very natural cycle of awakening and there is no judging where somebody is along their path, or what it looks like. It is, however, permissible to be mildly amused, if you can be that and still stay out of judgment.

Then at some point, one hopes, your inner compass no longer swings and sways with the charismatic and exotic calling of ceremonial hoodoo, but finds its own true north.

You find something like alignment in yourself, and then you notice what traditions, lineages, ceremonies, etc. resonate with where you already stand. You’re not sucked into somebody else’s vortex. You find your own vortex and see what wanders near it, and then, in more pure curiosity, not spiritual lost-ness, you explore those possibilities.

We attend Khirtan pretty regularly. It’s beautiful. I like the people, I love the music, the chanting. There is spirit in the air. I love Ganesha, what he stands for. Ganesha is not a god to me, and I am not a Hiindu, though we were married in a Hindu ceremony in India.

I just like it all a lot.

I burn sage in my office and at home; I like the smell and it feels calming. I went on a vision quest, and found it transformational, and the fact that the ceremony and preparation was allegedly passed down for thousands of years through this tribe and that was not of the least interest to me. I don’t even believe it. (Think of the telephone game.) That’s not why I went, and it’s not part of my takeaway. 

In my office hangs a photo I took of the Taj Mahal. It’s an Islamic mausoleum. Seeing it for the first time may have been the single most stunning visual experience I will ever have. I’m not going to turn all Islamic about it. Yet it was a deeply spiritual moment.

So I am not an Indian, American or otherwise, and I am not from a shamanic lineage, and I am not moved much by Carl Jung, nor by most ceremony, especially when it is appropriated by White folk from a non-Euro culture.  Just not made that way, though that does not make me right and the other guy wrong. Is what it is.

But Santa Fe is a great place to be at any stage of a spiritual journey. If you’re just starting out, Natural Awakenings is the experiential equivalent of the Whole Foods salad bar. Eventually, you may find that what looked really good was bland in actuality, and if you do some inner work and find your own inner voice, you will be more able to discern the paths that feel more like home, and less like a spiritual Route 66 with hucksters hawking chotchkies and ceremonies from someplace where people come in other colors…

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