Interview with Jyoti
Jyoti (Jeneane Prevatt, PhD) is an internationally renowned spiritual teacher. She has cultivated projects that demonstrate ways of life that honour the Earth and all Peoples. We are very honoured that she has agreed to join the Wisdom Keepers and come to the UK this summer to walk the line and be part of the camp at Glastonbury Festival. She spoke to us from her home on the Pacific west coast of the USA.
WK: Thank you so much Jyoti, where are you?
J: I’m in California, about 2 hours north of San Francisco in the redwood trees.
WK: How lovely and is that your birth place, where you grew up, California?
J: No I was actually born in Rapid City, South Dakota in 1948, so that part of my history is very interesting, because when I was in my fifties I would be brought back there by my Cheyenne grandpa Eugene Black Bear to sit on a sacred mountain there called Bear Butte for four years in a row, so he could pass some of his ways to me and my husband and Darlene Hunter, who works very closely with me in the Center of Sacred Studies community of Kayumari. So, it’s been very interesting, my life with these Black Hills, these sacred sights of my Lakota relatives. So yeah, but I’ve also lived in England actually, when I went to First Grade in England.
J: I did. My dad was in the Service, and that’s why we travelled some. And my growing up time was in the south, in the Texas/Louisiana area, so it was much later that I would be brought out here to California. But I’ve lived here now for 30-plus years, so it’s my home. My children and my grandchildren are here.
WK: Wow, wonderful. So, tell us about Kayumari; how did that idea come to flourish?
J: Well Kayumari, um, my husband and I had taught a breath work called Maya Tree breath work and we had taught also another tool through our meditation spiritual practices, which we called Star Gate, and through that work groups of people started gathering with us and travelling with us and many of them came together and asked us if we would help to establish a spiritual community. And I didn’t think I was old enough, grey enough or wise enough to do such a thing, so I went to three teachers that I knew were no-nonsense teachers and would be quite honest with me about that. My only criteria was that one of them would say no and then that would be complete, but all of them said it was time, and so we went into looking for land, my husband and I we looked almost seven years for land, and what we discovered in that was really sad, because many of the people that were selling land or property, before they sold it, they were cutting down all the old-growth trees to get the money from the timber, so we really felt like we needed to be guardians with this whole growth helping and guiding us. And so after a period of time one of our students actually was reading the paper in Sonora, California, and she said she kept seeing our faces when she read this advertisement about a retreat centre.
So, myself and Russel, my husband, and people that would be the original investors in this land, came up to this land and we were quite struck by it, it really called us. And so, they all left and said Jyoti, you and Russel decide. So, we spent the night there; we spoke with the spirit of the land, we went into meditation and during that time the mother who gives me most of my instruction, came and gave me a piece of paper, and she started dictating how we should author this experience of collaboration. And so we put money down on the land and we bought it, and as that was in process, several of us were given the task to find its name, and so we went away for two weeks and we had made a contact with the Huichol [indigenous tribe in Mexico] where Blue Deer, or Kayumari, is one of their powerful spirits. And they say that he’s the one that watches the portal to the other worlds and this one, and wherever he walks the medicine grows that brings healing to the community. So, we all came back two weeks later and we all had the name Kayumari, so it became the name of our community, that’s now an international community, and that Kayumari has been a guiding spirit in everything that we’ve done since that time. We bought our place in 1995. It’s on the tip-top of a mountain with national forest on all four sides, so it’s a special piece of land that’s got crystals and water running through it and, you know, big bears and mountain lions and eagles and red tail hawks and it’s just nourishing. And what we came to find out when we did research on the land was that it was the birthing ground for all the deer in the neighbourhood, so we had hundreds and hundreds of deer. Kayumari was walking all around us and sitting with us in our ceremonial times.
WK: I understand that you now have centres in Europe.
J: Yes, I’m opening for the first time one of the Maya Tree breath works there Some of the ministers, we have 250 Ministers of Walking Prayer from all different parts of the globe, and some of them live there in Europe and so, we have a community outside of Prague that’s 20 years old now, my community’s 30 years old, so it’s wonderful to be able to walk with people through life and have a longevity in our relationship. It was one of the things when we founded our community that we felt very strongly about. We wanted to stay out of the box of a reality that was throwaway reality. You know, we have our cars until they wear out and we throw them away. We have our utensils; we throw them away when they get too old. We don’t like our relationships; we throw them away. We decided we wanted to walk together through life, all the way, and we also wanted a community that was dedicated to the awakening process, so we could be conscious individuals, living close and in the direction of nature. And so it’s wonderful to be with people, and sit with them while they birth their babies and grow their children and graduate them from college, and be with them during their death throws with family and friends, and marry them and celebrate life with them, and know that we can get messy when we’re waking up, and so wanted to be kind with one another if we fell asleep, because we’re humans and we will do that, so we would be kind and say “hey Jyoti, did you know you fell asleep?” “Oh no! What was I doing?” kind of thing. So the baby that was born in my bath tub is now graduated from college, and out in the world doing good things. So for me that’s been a heart filling moment.
WK: How did you become involved with the Wisdom Keepers initiative?
J: Well I met Ben through a dear friend and he started sharing with me his vision of the Wisdom Keepers, and I had been invited as an elder into some of these music festivals, and I wasn’t sure – I must say I had my grandmother eyebrow up to see was it possible to bring our indigenous elders into the music festivals, because their cultures were so, it would be such a totally different place for them with their protocols and some of the medicines, and the way that they work. There’s certain things that have to happen in order to keep that energy around them in a good and sacred way, and so I kept coming, and I’ve been invited now to several others. I just returned from Lightning in the Bottle music festival. That was in Bakersfield, California, and they’ve been working on this concept for about seven years and they really are doing a remarkable job of honouring those different cultural pieces, and the age and the youth and all that goes on. And there’s a feeling in this movement that it’s very important for the Earth and her caretakers to bring their message to our youth, so they can start to hear things a little bit differently, and start to maybe turn to a different understanding about how they walk on this earth. And certainly with climate change and everything that’s happening right now, as my Kogi elder says, the ending is falling into the beginning and it will fall into the beginning in 2026, and it will roll out into this new story that the Earth is bringing through those individuals and organisations and movements that are based on original principle; original principle being the heart, reciprocity, collaboration. All life is sacred in unity, so I think this is for me what I’m experiencing with the Wisdom Keepers. It’ll be my first time to join them there in the UK, so I’m excited to meet them.
WK: Well, of course, you’re going to be meeting lots of people at Glastonbury Festival. There’ll be kids there, teenagers. Some of them will be urban kids very much conditioned in the modern ways, they might not even have an understanding of what the sacred is. How would you explain it to someone who’s saying “Jyoti tell me, what does sacred mean?”
J: That’s a really good question. Sacred. If I were to just go into that space of sacred … (pauses) You know, for me, our language sometimes leads us to so many different understandings of perception. So, for me, sacred is something that doesn’t have words; it’s something that we experience with our whole being, if you can imagine sitting in the redwood forest here, where some of the trees are thousands of years old, very big and majestic, and the sun shines through, and you can feel God speak in them, you can feel the fairies running around playing in them, you can feel life buzzing all through it, and it opens a door to a majestic space that every single one of us have in our heart, and when that heart opens and that presence arrives, that’s sacred, for me, and I think that’s a general way that I would start that discussion, but I think it is a needed discussion right now, because all life is sacred and we’ve come a long way from that understanding, and, as the Kogis have said, we’re returning now to that original place, where we will once again regard life as all sacred.
WK: Wonderful, thank you for that beautiful reflection. How would you encourage young people to incorporate traditional practices into their lives? I’m thinking of the indigenous, the traditions carrying this primordial connection, these primary principles as you call them. How would you encourage people to start introducing them to their lives?
J: I think I would start by first asking “What’s your passion?”, because if you can connect with you passion, not the thing your mind thinks you ought to do, because your ego would get some big push in it, or not because you’re afraid of doing things the wrong way, or not because you want to prove something, but when you come right back to yourself and what is your passion, then you start to get in your heart. And so, a lot of times, when I start working with people, we will start there first. Now indigenous practise will help us learn how to walk behind our medicine. And the medicine inside is that passion that the soul carries. It carries our destiny path inside of it and if we can start to listen to that, if we can start to make right relations with that, then we can start to follow it. And when we follow something, we are not running ahead of it, our egos and our fears and our wishes, our expectations, our demands from society aren’t running ahead of our medicine to manipulate it or to craft it somehow, because then we would be away from that original path. So if we come back to that place… How do we get back to that place? Well, music takes you back to that place, dance takes you back to that place, prayer takes you back to that place, ceremony takes you back to that place. So, from the beginning of Kayumari we were very blessed to bought into ceremonial ways, and we never proceeded or made plans out of what we thought needed to happen to create a community. We literally listened, we got the instruction, we trusted that instruction and put it into motion, and then we went back into our prayer ceremonial ways to get the next instruction, and then we followed that out. So, it requires that we stay in the present moment, and that we follow that instruction. When we do we have a very different rhythm with life. It brings us back into a whole system where we are no longer with narrow blinders, just seeing one portion of that bigger system; it allows us to dialogue with all of Creation, and to get that instruction, and to get right relationship again. So that’s where I think I would start.
WK: What would you say is preventing us from doing that naturally? What’s the biggest disconnect that we have in society do you think?
J: Well, for me, I think the western model has been a teaching for us, and can be a superb teaching about what happens when we get too far away from Nature and our own nature. When we do, we start to get caught up in our egos and the wounds that have been laid down upon us through our historical, generational walk, and through our cultural walk and our familiar systems, and we start to live life out of those wounds.
And right now that life and that shadow, that shouts so loudly for us, is all about greed, it’s about consumption, it’s not about collaborating with Nature anymore or listening to its intelligence anymore, it’s about trying to control it, dig into it, dig into the body and extract things that will help our consumption. And in the jungle, in the Amazon, they call the people of the West, the termite people, because they eat everything, everywhere they go. So, I think that has been the biggest lesson. So, if we can let go of this false reality that we are really addicted to at this point, and come back to our original relationship with Nature, then I know we will walk forward in a good way.
WK: If you could give that young person we have imagined one pearl of advice, one thing to take away with them, to treasure, what would that be?
J: Believe in yourself, believe in yourself. Every single one has a significant jewel living inside. If we believe in ourselves and we connect with that jewel, all things are possible. Most people along my walk, and I’m 71 now; most people along my walk have said almost every time, when I got this direction from Spirit about the next thing I needed to help serve or to help birth, everyone said across the board, you cannot do that, that’s Impossible Jyoti, and I said yeah, but Spirit said let’s do this, and I just have this deep sense of curiosity in me. So, I think that’s been a fire in the bucket, and so I think, when you’re a teenager, there’s a lot of that curiosity available to you. Now where do you want to focus that curiosity, do you want to dive deeper into the mystery, that has been driving evolution since its beginning, of these times we live in, or do you want to jump on the train of what is “possible”, as defined; or react and push back against that which you have felt confined by, or labelled by, or misunderstood by. Those are the choices; you either can go after this false reality, like one of my teachers says: as an activist, what you fight is what you become, so that was really a jewel of understanding early on in my life, because I’m a spiritual activist, and I have been for most of my life, some form of activism has operated in my life and work and in my growing and in my family. So, you either push back and do that or you come back to that place of choice, and you choose to dive with curiosity into the mystery. And you just allow each day to show up, and if you embrace what that brings you, then the next day will show up, and before you know it you’re walking your destiny path, and the mystery has opened something to you that is your jewel to catch, your significant contribution to bring into this Creation. And that is a different way of spending life energy.
WK: Thank you very much indeed Jyoti, it’s been an absolute pleasure. I can’t wait to meet you when you come to the UK in June.
J: Well I look forward to our meeting and to walk this great holy line down into Glastonbury. I’m very intrigued by this, and humbled that I was invited in this way, and hope only that we can walk in a fully unified march for peace. That is my prayer.
WK: So mote it be.