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Issue: February 2013 Newsletter
Inner and Outer Adventures in Ecuador

By Susannah
As many of you know, we are recently back from Ecuador, where we were co-leading an international group visiting the Achuar in the Amazon with David Tucker. David has been with the Pachamama Alliance since nearly the beginning and he has developed the Pachamama Journeys programme over the last 14 years.

It was a big journey for me. I received many teachings, and had experiences which touched me to my core and for which I am profoundly grateful. I hope I can give you a flavour here.

On New Year’s Eve we were high in the Andes at San Clemente, the beautiful self-sufficient community of people we visited last year too. The community rests on the flanks of Imbabura, a father volcanic mountain whose benevolent strength is palpable and beautiful and had me singing from the moment we got off the bus. In fact that song is still singing through me now.

This time, as we went into ceremony on New Year’s Eve, the community decided to join us, and we became one circle. Sharing healing and remembrance with the local people was moving and beautiful. The people there are so, so strong, and so, so gentle at the same time. They are the sons and daughters of many generations who were enslaved by the Spanish on huge haciendas, forced to labour as slaves on what had been their own land for thousands of years. In the 1950s Ecuador’s land reform gave them back their land, and since then they have been reviving the old ways, farming organically, choosing to live in balance with Pachamama (Mother Earth) to whom they pray and give thanks everyday. In other ways they are updating the old ways, for instance in how the women are empowered and, side by side with the men, lead, speak and represent the community.

In the ceremony, at one quiet moment, I felt/saw the “star of peace” shining inside my heart. It was bright and fiercely radiant, and at the same time totally gentle. I realised (again) that to choose peace is not the easy road! Later, David and I saw a huge star in the sky, a beautiful outer mirror of the inner vision of the “Estrella de Paz”.

All of this was, for me, a sign of the potential of our new era. It’s about “we.” It’s about co-creation. I feel that between us (on earth), we have all the tools we need. This new era is about finding out how to work together in a way where we complement each other’s strengths, rather than compound each other’s fears and fragilities. Which, as we know is not always easy!

Leaving San Clemente after a day of rest, debrief and learning how they plough with their bulls (which this year were frisky and restless!) we took the long bus ride down to the edge of the deep Amazon. Enroute we learnt how President Correa of Ecuador had come into office on a green and social ticket, and had strongly kept to the social part, but has not (so far!) kept his green promises. His government is proposing to protect the Yasuni area of the Amazon in perpetuity in exchange for financial support from the industrialized world. It is absolutely good and right to protect Yasuni, which has some of the highest biodiversity in the world, and it’s a great idea to ask the industrialized world to support this (we all need it). However, what Correa is actually proposing means saving a small bit of rainforest whilst sacrificing the much larger adjacent areas of pristine rainforest including the vast lands of the Achuar and other tribes which are now (right now) for sale to international oil companies in the “11th oil round”.  Yasuni is about 200,000 hectares. The total amount of rainforest in the 11th round “sale” is about 4 Million hectares, of which 2 million is pristine rainforest (as is Yasuni). So the proposal is to ask the world to support Ecuador to safeguard an area whilst simultaneously sacrificing an area 10 to 20 times bigger.

Reserves of oil have been found under great tracts of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador and in Peru. Getting to this oil, as has already been done in some parts further north in Ecuador has left wastelands, its meant destroying the forest, polluting the waters and totally destroying the local people’s way of life.

Our bus pulls up in the little town of Shell right of the edge of what is now the deep Amazon. It’s called Shell because it came into being through Shell’s oil explorations some time ago. This used to be deep forest too, but now it’s a town within an area of mixed forest, roads and settlements. As we get off the bus and walk over the swinging rickety bridge to our little hotel, we see graffiti on a wall. It says, “Petroleo es Muerte”- “Oil is death”.

So we are going into the Amazon at a “hot” time. The Achuar are a warrior people. They were one of the very few tribes that the Spanish did not subdue. The Achuar were so fierce in their resistance that the Spanish left them alone. In 1995, sensing that their land and way of life was threatened, they sent out a call to the modern world for allies, a group of people from the north heard and answered their call, and the unpredictable phenomena of the Pachamama Alliance was born. This group from the north included Bill and Lynne Twist and John Perkins (author of “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”) who between them soon brought in David Tucker, with whom we and our intrepid group were travelling. The Achuar asked their new allies to help them secure their land, and, in order to make their forest safe long term, to “change the dream of the north”. The Achuar recognise that the thirst for oil is rooted in the unexamined assumptions (“dream” or “guiding story”) of the industrialized world, which leads us to the way of life rooted in acquisition and “I must have MORE!” which is devouring the planet.  The Achuar recognise that unless we wake up to, and change, this dream, eventual destruction of the fabric of life is inevitable. This is why the Pachamama Alliance, along with its work to safeguard the actual Achuar territories (and they are now working alongside many neighbouring tribes too) puts so much energy into the “Awakening the Dreamer” symposium, which is all about waking from this dream and making a different set of choices as individuals, families, communities and nations world wide.

When Ya’Acov and I first did the “Awakening the Dreamer” symposium, (its called the “Be the Change” symposium in Europe) the Pachamama Alliance had secured the legal title of the Achuar to their own land. That part of the work seemed to be done. Ecuador became the first nation in the world to enshrine the “Rights of Nature” in its constitution, and Correa came to power on a green ticket. But things have changed. The Achuar own the surface of the land, but the government owns whatever is underneath. Apparently that is the same in here in the UK and in Europe. Oil is discovered. Ecuador needs funds for its social programme. Correa has a picture that the indigenous tribes living in the forest are living in misery. The “rights of nature” though in the constitution are not made into actual laws and so no one is held accountable. It is not known what pressure Correa may be under to offer up land to the oil companies. But one can guess. Yasuni is brought forward as a bright idea, but looks like it is now being used as “green wash” even though in itself it is a great idea.

So, enough context for now, I want to continue our story. The only way into Achuar territory is by (tiny) plane or by river (3 to 4 days by motorised canoe). We flew, leaving behind the land of concrete, of roads, and tin roofs, flying for hours above the green “broccoli forest” which stretches as far as one can see and way beyond, in every direction. I’m always so moved by this. To see, with my own eyes, that it is still here! We live, right now in an age where, though there has been such great destruction of the natural world, this part of this great forest is still here. We are so privileged. And it is so fragile. So wild, so strong, and yet so fragile. Once the trees are cut down, the soil is fertile for a very few years, and then is washed out. The forest cannot return. So, flying in, I am poignantly aware of the green treasure beneath us. The choice we have as a species at this time. Now. Not next year or next decade. Now.  

Later on there are some peak impressions I’d like to share with you. One of them was of perceiving the refinement of the knowledge of the Achuar, on many, many levels: the depth and refinement of their knowledge of healing, of building, their depth of empathy, of humour, and of course of hunting, gathering, living in the forest. I saw the first shaman we worked with as a high scholar, drawing from the basis of the lineage of his teachers stretching back for thousands of years. Each Achuar we met was kind and supportive to us on collective and individual levels. Each of them said something whose essence I understood as this: “We absolutely do not want oil exploration or extraction here. We will fight that with everything we have. We want to go on living as our people live- in and with the forest. We are interested in developing eco-tourism as an alternative way, as we do not reject all western things. We want some education and some health care on our own terms. For the sake of our children, for the sake of the forest itself, and for the sake of all life on earth, please work with us to preserve our forest”.

We said: “Yes!” and as a result there is much more you will be hearing about this, as we invite you too to stand with the Achuar.

There are, of course, many great and important causes to be supported. The reasons we feel supporting the Pachamama Alliance to be so compelling are the following:  

-        Of course the first is personal, we have fallen in love with the forest itself, its physical presence and its spirit, and having been personally asked by the Achuar to support them has made a heart connection and commitment.

-        Then there is this. Cutting down rainforest is one of the fastest ways to load the atmosphere with more CO2. Preserving rain forest is (we are told by independent people we trust) is the single most important thing we can do to combat run away climate change and give us as a world time to re-orientate towards true sustainability.

-        There is a strong chance of success here, because: a) The Achuar are such strong and determined warriors, the oil companies are already thinking twice, b) The international presence of the Pachamama Alliance means they are also thinking twice because they know there may be international outcry, bad publicity and pressure, c) Correa is an intelligent, brave and independent man of vision who has a clear commitment to the welfare of Ecuador’s people. He may change his mind and heart. d) Simply resisting oil exploitation is not a complete strategy in itself, of course. Fundación Pachamama and its peers are also engaged in pointing out viable economic and energy alternatives for Ecuador which are being thoroughly researched by scholars, academics, scientists and professionals in Ecuador and around the world, e) Through the “Awakening the Dreamer”(“Be The Change”) Symposium, the Pachamama Alliance is working to bring about a global change of mind and heart to open the door to a sustainable, just and fulfilling world for all.

-        This choice feels like one tipping point. If Ecuador can be supported to make a different choice, it would open the door for similar choices elsewhere. If we allow this forest to fall, humanity will have missed a profound moment of possibility for changing our direction.

I felt a profound coming together of my own micro healing and the macro healing of changing the dream and taking action to protect life on earth. What is happening in Ecuador is a micro-cosm of what is happening on earth. Its not just up to the Ecuadorians to make this choice, it’s a choice for all of us on earth, especially those of us in the industrialized world whose life style is intrinsically wrapped up in a consumer based oil based way of life.  

I’ll end with a few messages I received personally:

 “Stand up! Have no fear, and let the love of life shine through.”

“Its time to let go of a few things: 1) the idea that you (little old you) cannot do anything to make a difference 2) the idea that you have to do 'it' alone 3) any attachment to the "success" or outcome. Simply take action in alignment with the love in your heart whether these actions are apparently big or apparently small, do whatever you do knowing you are part of a wide web- ask and reach out for help and support on human and unseen levels, do whatever you do because it feels good, right, joyous, empowering and empowered, and because it connects you more deeply with love.

That guidance is resonating with me and through me, and is going to take a little while to integrate! I’m grateful to the Movement medicine community for helping me remember!

One dazzling night, lying on a banana leaf on the ground deep in the forest, the sky overhead a huge canopy of stars, I realised how many people have never ever seen the night sky like this, numinous, alive with mysterious beauty. It’s a possibility I want for all of us as well as our Achuar brothers and sisters, who know they are guardians of that mystery, not just for themselves, but for all humanity and all life.

Thank you for reading right through! Do have a look at:

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I encourage any of you who have not seen the Symposium to get to one soon, or watch the Symposium DVD (available from the

Love to each one of us and to the power of choice! See you on a dance floor somewhere!

Susannah DK

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the School of Movement Medicine. Roland Wilkinson, Nappers Crossing, Staverton, Devon TQ9 6PD, UK Tel & Fax +44 (0)1803 762255 http://www.