• Oscar C. Pérez

Listening to the Earth - Lessons from Xipe Totek

Sloughing off layers of ourselves is heart-wrenching, difficult path of life. It requires a type of honesty and determination that defies the rational and emotional capacity for the majority of people. Because transformation and growth are not easy. And, while personal, they do not cater to the individual whims of every person, regardless of what the enabling dominant narrative is in our society.

I’ve been contemplating this a lot lately. Because we are in this massive collective transition. Because in this massive collective transition the fears of the individual are added to the fears of the collective. Because in those fears all different types of behavior arise.

I am actively witnessing these things arising and flowing through me, with all of my as-yet unhealed attachments, dreams, and fears.

What I see in the world that is reflected back to me is this polarity between the idea that the world is ending, cascading towards an inevitable destruction that will be as apocalyptic as the age-old Biblical images of hellfire and brimstone; and the idea that we can not only sidestep that, we can as a collective shift the direction that humanity is headed if we change our vibration, envision new alternatives for the future, and collectively organize to make these visions happen. The question is, how many of us are going to follow through with that and how many are going to continue to make it a matter of social media representation while denying the tangible realities of the world we live in?

In the end, I think, and I’ve thought this for quite some time, that the only way to make any type of difference is to take the things we project out into the collective into ourselves and realize that is where they originate. Then go about the work of uprooting the venomous things that we see in the world by realizing their roots start in us. We only perceive what we project. This is a big thing to wrap your head around. It is something that I revisit day after day. Realizing that, in the end, the choices I make and the actions based upon them are a reflection of me, being reflected at me, by the image that I have of the world I interact with.

Now this, by no means, means that you have to tolerate the behaviors of others that insist on afflicting you with their fears, rage, or other toxic bullshit. It means that you are responsible for your environment, both internal and external. What you allow in your space will directly impact your state of mind. That has physical, emotional, mental, and energetic implications. But when you choose to remove yourself from a toxic space or toxic relationship, recognize what conditions exist in you that called it into being in the first place. Then work of those conditions.

When you think you’re done, keep working on those conditions.

I realize that at this time many people are looking for a sense of certainty outside of themselves. They are looking to be reassured by leaders of any kind: political, social, spiritual, etc. People want to find a sense of stability outside, then attach themselves to like-minded people in order to alleviate the fear of facing this reality-altering situation in community. I think that when those communities are forged it can be an extremely positive, beautiful thing. But I also see how in the scramble to either create or participate in these communities, people sidestep the process of looking inward. Whether they’re on the side of the doomsdayers or the namasteyers, and everything and anything in between, there is a collective tendency of the modern human to shift their center from one external anchor to another, without finding the place within, where it really belongs.

So, how do you do this?

There are some powerful lessons that come from our Anahuaca ancestors that teach about Xipe Totek, the Flayed One. Xipe Totek is one of the four Tezcatlipoca, the four mirrors through which we experience and perceive this world. Xipe Totek teaches us that in order to grow and therefore live, everything needs to go through a process of shedding its old skin. That means old ideas, narratives, social structures, conscious and unconscious behavior patterns. Xipe reminds us that at this time we have to take the time to strip away the parts of ourselves that tend towards rigidity, seeking to be comfortable, rearranging old beliefs in new ways to convince ourselves that we are doing things differently when, in reality, we’ve just rearranged our old behaviors in new configurations.

He is the spirit of the transitions of the Earth. Specifically, the one that we are going through now, which is the renovation or regrowing of the Earth. It so happens that as we are in the midst of this global coronavirus lockdown what has happened is that many ecological habitats have begun renovating, restoring, healing. The absence of our modern activities has allowed for the Earth to begin a rapid regeneration process. But in order to do so, something had to die. Just as many people have been dying over the course of this. But that something that had to die is, more specifically, the idea of human exceptionalism and human privilege that has most modern people believing they are outside of the cycles and rhythms of nature. The beauty of this ancestral Toltec wisdom is further corroborated by the fact that, according to the Xiuhpohualli, that ancient calendar of the Solar year, we are in the month of Tlacaxipehualiztli, which is the 18-day month of Xipe Totek.

Xipe Totek is displayed throughout the ancient amoxtli, or books, as a figure of a man whose skin is peeling off at the hands, feet, and face. For the Spanish that arrived with only a materialistic knowledge of life and, having recently participated in the mass genocide of jews, pagans, and any political or social unwanteds that they labeled “heretics” during the Spanish Inquisition, this figure was immediately associated with the ideas of human torture and death. However, Xipe is much more than a representation of the abject horrors that humans do to other humans. For the Tolteca, who are much more connected both to Earth and to the Spirit than were the European colonizers of the 16th century, Xipe was an honoring of a process that must happen in order for life to continue, for life to grow. That is, the process of the peeling away of the old in order for the birth and thriving of the new. Xipe Totek is about the dying off of what will not allow life to continue living and renewing itself, in order for new life to spring forth and the cycle of birth-life-death-rebirth to continue.

Now, Xipe teaches us that at this time when there is a massive dying off of our old ways of living and perceiving the world, we are at a threshold. We have the opportunity to be the ones that, through stripping away what is no longer serving Life can become the agents of it. But this is a massive task, and a massive undertaking within us all. Starting within us all. It is not the simple adjustment and continuation of the patterns of behavior and interaction that happened prior to this current pandemic. Which is what also often tends to happen.

For years now I have been in and around so-called spiritual communities with people that perceive their connection to the Earth as an abstract thing. Those that thing that by using imagination and flowery words they can speak to the spiritual essence of what this incredible reality we are living in is. At the same time, I have spent time learning about what it means to literally have my hands in the dirt. Growing food, developing nature connection skills, developing awareness and observation of the natural world and having the tangible experience of being in dialog with it. Not as an abstraction, but as a lived reality.

When I feel into what is happening what arises for me is this: both the doomsday and the namaste perspectives are polarities at the extremes of human self-importance. These perspectives are still arising out of the idea of human exceptionalism, where the focus is not so much on Life as it is on human life and, more specifically, on the individual lives of those that espouse them. I’m not saying that humans don’t matter, I’m saying that we don’t matter as much as we think we do. More importantly, we don’t matter as much as the totality of Life matters.

As we are in this time of isolation, it is worthwhile to think about how we can begin to give back to the Earth in tangible ways. Of course, honoring the energetic and spiritual side of the Earth is important, but to do that and not have direct contact with it through immersing ourselves in direct relationship with it is delusional and hypocritical. To speak of loving the Earth without having a direct relationship with it is a product of modernity and privilege. Beyond that, it is an extension of the age-old Cartesian split that separated the mind and the body. Though, nowadays people will go so far as to assign the title of "Spirit" to various aspects of their conscious and/or unconscious mind.

I don’t know what is going to happen to the collective. I don’t know what the outcome of any of this will be. But at the heart of things, what speaks to me is the awareness that integrating my spiritual life with a deep communion with nature through connecting with a place, honoring it regularly, growing my own food, getting to know the human and more-than-human neighbors, and integrating all of these things into as self-reliant a lifestyle as possible is the most beautiful direction that I can take for the remainder of my days. As all of these old illusions collapse, I find myself, yet again, stripping away another layer of old skin. I realize that many dreams that existed up until this moment are no longer relevant or even remotely desirable.

In my experience, nothing can guide you to a deeper place of inner silence than being connected to nature. Having your hands and feet in the dirt. And listening, deeply, not with your ears or through the filter of your internal dialog, which is to say, your ego, but with all of your being. The idea of human exceptionalism has led modern humans to hear nothing but the droning of human voices. And the Earth is constantly speaking. Constantly pulling us back to the silent, still center where we find our interconnectedness with all things. All of the outer dialogs of the human world and their many self-deceptive agendas drown the voice of the Earth out if you let them. So work to strip them away.

Go find a place outside. Take off your shoes and touch the Earth. And sit. And listen.

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