The Harmony Project

Interview with Ione

  • There is a question of recognizing that you don't have to like everyone or love everyone. Everyone seems to think loving everyone is what community is. But it's not that at all… It is the ability to be in the same feeling and oneness with others even though they may be different from you.
  • I think I always had a spiritual or mystical bent. Just looking out of a window at the stars, gave me great pleasure and took me to another dreamy kind of place in my self. I also remember coming to an understanding of the macrocosm and microcosm-just by looking out my mother's bedroom window at those stars- as an early teenager.
  • I know in my life, as a younger woman, just to be a good mother and to create a good home was incredibly creative. Sometime people would say “ Is that all you did?" because it was out of context of what they thought was creative. How important is it for each person to find their own…

Ann: In what spiritual tradition were you raised?

Ione: I was raised as an Episcopal.

Ann: In what part of the county?

Ione: I was raised in Washington, D.C. and grew up in New York City and Upstate New York in Saratoga Springs.

Ann: And how many years did you follow the Episcopal tradition?

Ione: I don't know if I would say that I followed it. At the age of 13, I had a disillusionment about confirmation. I remember pulling away from the whole thing.

Ann: My great aunt was Episcopalian, but I didn't go to church a lot.

Ann: Would you be able to share what happened to you that you wanted to pull away?

Ione: Well, I saw something about the Bishop that came to preside over the ceremony. I didn't get a good feeling from him. It was all rather subjective. He was a white Bishop who had come up to Harlem to preside over this event and it felt like he didn't want to be there. He seemed to me to have an attitude.

Ann: Did you seek other things? Tell me about the transition that occurred for you.

Ione: I was 13 years old. I felt disillusioned.

Ann: Did you join another church?

Ione: No. I just dropped that part of it. But I think I always had a spiritual or mystical bent. Just looking out of a window at the stars, gave me great pleasure and took me to another dreamy kind of place in my self. I also remember coming to an understanding of the macrocosm and microcosm-just by looking out my mother's bedroom window at those stars- as an early teenager.

Ann: I consider you a mystical teacher. That's what I've always heard about you and that's why I want to study with you. You can take people to a greater understanding.

Ione: Well, my journey is quite long, from that time to now. I'm writing about this particular aspect of my teachings so I'm pulling that part forward at the moment. I've written a very large book about my life, a memoir inspired by my great grandmother, Frances Anne Rollin's 1868 diary. She is the author of the earliest known diary by a Southern African American woman and the first biography by an African American. She lived between 1847 and 1901

Ann: What is the name of that?

Ione: PRIDE OF FAMILY; Four Generations of American Women of Color. I'm a dream facilitator. Dreams are always speaking the truth related to our feelings. I incorporate dreams into my writing, performing and even entertainment. I produce dream festivals in the Hudson Valley every year. They are about dream awareness and helping people pay attention to their dreams. When we tell each other our dreams, we are communicating on a deep level that automatically cuts through all the layering and armoring we do. It's about creating a dream community and being in a community with others in that way. It cuts across all cultures, ages and classes. It's a very powerful human trait we all have. The book on dreams I wrote is called, THIS IS A DREAM; a Handbook for Deep Dreamers.

During the early 70's I was living in Europe, France and Spain-deeply involved in dreams and dreaming-working as a journalist, a freelance writer for the early Ms. Magazine, and number of other magazines, in New York. I started collecting the dreams of my kids-the whole family's dreams. One thing that fascinated me was the discovery that people living in the same house often have the same or similar elements and symbols in their dreams. I would return periodically to the U.S., and around 1975 in upstate NY, in Saratoga. I began to teach journal and notebook workshops as well as dream workshops and dream circles. I'm an inveterate journal writer. It has always been of great interest to me - I seek to find the universal in the personal. I remember that Ira Progroff's, The Intensive Journal was coming out and I hadn't read it yet. I just got out all my journals and started to do all these things. The underlying theme was locating sources of creativity-as a means of connecting to Spirit-a connection to all there Is. A connection to one's Self. A connection to fully living this life.

Later, In New York City I began to teach these workshops in my loft. At first, Groups would meet at different people's houses and then I began to teach them publicly at places like The Manhattan Theater Club and The Open Center. The journal workshops went on for a number of years and I was also doing a dream circle.

When I was doing the dream and journal workshops at that point, although I never intended they be only for women, mostly only women came. When there were only women, we would move through things 200 hundred times faster - going much deeper then when there were men. I guess some of my most important work started when I went to Egypt as a journalist I decided to go with a photographer, and the first journey was quite astounding. I went again the following year, on my own and I wanted to share what I was experiencing with others more than just as a journalist. Although it was a way of sharing I wanted to incorporate teaching the spiritual aspects. What developed was I decided to begin a year-long training program in the healing and intuitive healing arts for women. It came in the wake of the "workshop craze of the 1980's which had just started. It was clear to me that in a workshop there was only so much you could get and this drop off, disconnect would happen afterwards. I thought if the program lasted a year, it would give the women time to get what they needed to get and for me to do what I wanted to do. So, I developed the concept and I decided that we would go to Egypt for initiation at the end of the year after the work. I put that out and it was amazing what a result there was. People were just eating it up. Many women came and I began teaching in New York. It was the weekly gathering, and we did go the full year, and at the end we all went to Egypt together. Actually there was also another group, an upstate group, and the New York City group got joined and all of us went to Egypt. It was quite extraordinary.

Ann: So what door opened? What did you receive in Egypt that you did not receive here spiritually? What happened?

Ione: Well, for me Egypt is a repository of the most Ancient of Mysteries, and therefore, when was there and touching the earth, I was able to receive that. It's totally irreplaceable in terms of connection to the ancient mysteries-It's direct, concrete.

Ann: The women too that went along for the year of training and the trip to Egypt; could they also could make that connection?

Ione: Yes. This is what I'm writing now. I've been asked to do a book on this work. The first trip was in 1985 and I've continued to do Mysteries groups for many years. The format has shifted and changed. I realized it needs to be fluent and not a ridged style of teaching. I've made 7 journeys to Egypt and the most recent was last year. We've gone to other sacred places throughout the world as well in New Mexico, Colorado and Hawaii, Greece, Crete.

Ann: Many of the women have stayed with you and continued to study over a period of time?

Ione: Yes, there are many women who come back. They are always a part of the community. I just started working again, privately, with one of the women from the first New York group.

Ann: Who of your teachers help lead you to the life you have now? It doesn't have to be a specific person. It can be books, etc...

Ione: Well, I've had an enormous number of teachers, there was the novelist, R.V. Cassill , my first writing teacher, who just died recently. Another friend was Richard Corriere. Author of The Dream Makers. In the 80's, I was very connected to Edgar Cayce's A.R.E. organization, and was also corresponding with the noted dream worker, Henry Reed. At that same time I began to study with many incredible Buddhist teachers, notably Tai Situ Rinpoche, Kalu Rinpoche and Jamgon Kontrul Rinpoche I have a strong connection to Buddhism.

Ann: You actually worked with those teachers in the city?

Ione: I've worked with them in the city, upstate and in different cities. I've done a great deal and I covered territory that is quite strong. I consider the Tibetans to be holders of the most ancient of teachings--a continuation of the Egyptians. The Tibetans have a lineage to the most ancient of teachings. They are as close as we can physically get to those mysteries.

Ann: Do you see them quite different or in common, these mysteries?

Ione: The underlying information is the same, but the information is manifested differently according to the culture.

Ann: What other disciplines and approaches have you studied?

Ione: In the 80's I began a 4-year training program. Helix is an alternative program in Psychotherapy and Healing taught by extraordinary women who teach the 4-yr. program with 1-year supervision. My experience in Helix was very powerful and important. I was doing that along with teaching and going to Egypt. The work I've done with Arnold and Amy Mindell in Process Oriented Psychotherapy and Dreambody work is very important to me in terms of the actual work that I do. It's very centered in what is in the moment. It does not bring a preconceived notion to the moment and allows it to unfold. This is a great connection to the Shamanic because that's what one needs in order to make a connection to the Spirit or to magic or whatever words we want to use to describe the numinous experience.

Ann: It steps out of analyzing the moment in some way. It creates a bigger door for being with the other person. Do you see any changes in cultures from when you started with the way women are coming to this now and the way they are studying?

Ione: Well, what I see is that there is still a great need for the work and that surprised me early on. I was really surprised that women needed to have this kind of communal work. When I first launched it, the women's movement had happened and I was halfway thinking, a lot of stuff is already known, but it was not like that at all. The need continues up till this day. I don't think things have gotten much better. In many ways, I think they have gotten worse culturally, especially in terms of women's spiritual selves being stomped on by culture. I see women in great need of assistance.

Ann: I've always been interested with who rises in a group and the personality of each group. When you walk into the first gathering, you have no idea, but very soon there's a form that begins to take place.

Ione: There is a question of recognizing that you don't have to like everyone or love everyone. Everyone seems to think loving everyone is what "community is. But it's not that at all.

Ann: What is it?

Ione: It is the ability to be in the same feeling and oneness with others even though they may be different from you.

Ann: To make the commitment, for a year, to be with other women-all sorts of changes happen in that year, right?

Ione: Yes.

Ann: That's a very big commitment. You're drawing in people who have some real depth and interest in what they are doing.

Ione: And, they are very different from each other. Some don't like each other. You're not going to like everybody, but you can grow to respect everyone and to consider them a part of who you are and what you're doing in the world. I want to create that as a model for being on the earth, and support women who revere those mysteries, who guide those mysteries into the world.

Ann: Creating an understanding that you can be with people and not love them-some you may and some you may not. Is that what your saying?

Ione: You don't have to like everyone in order to be in a community with them. You don't have to be just like another person in order to live and respect them and to be in a community with them. It's one of the hardest things to learn as a country-all the countries. That learning seems to happen, be available in these groups. It feels like a good model for creating, continuing the experience and putting it out in the world. About 6 years ago, I developed the Ministry of Maat. The Ministry is a religious organization, a 501c3, not-for profit organization, that encompasses the work that I've been doing all these years. It includes the study of the mores of different women from different countries and includes meditation practice, the creative element of women in the world and the concept of fully existing and connecting to Spirit in this world. There are 5 ministers and we just ordained another one last week.

Ann: When you've been ordained in that specific ministry, is there any specific goal for the person?

Ione: Each goal is individual, and the larger goal is to follow the precepts of the ministry.

Ann: What kind of diversity are you getting as people are taking their ministries out into the world?

Ione: Well, there's a woman, Ann Bourne in Canada who works with sound. and another, Andrea Goodman who works with sound in Maine. We do a lot of work with sound because it is also a connection to the ancients in Egypt. She's a wonderful performer and is teaching and has also begun to do some healing work.

Ann: How is that done?

Ione: Well, I can't tell all the details right now. But there are many different ways. Their teaching shows women how to use their voices in healing. You can use sound Shamanically by feeling what is needed, and there are many subtle, fantastic techniques for doing this work. Each has her particular and personal way of working with people. A number of the women from Anne's small group in Toronto, who have been doing extraordinary work there, have been coming to this meeting so its becoming part of the larger group. They are also starting a retreat center.

Ann: It's exciting for you?

Ione: It's great. I just did a whole ceremony to honor them. There's also Andrea Goodman, my colleague for a number of years, who is an astrologer and a performer. She performed with Meredith Monk for a number of years and is now doing her own work, including being in an Opera I just wrote and directed at the University of Wisconsin.

Ann: To get back to your own path, have there been experiences in your own life that you felt the Spirit with you or you felt directed? When times were hard, did you somehow feel protected?

Ione: Yes.

Ann: Tell us a little about that? I want so for people to understand that this is international. Everyone I've talked to, at one time or another has had these wonderful experiences and I don't hear them talked about very often.

Ione: Well, there are so many times. I remember realizing shortly after moving to Kingston, it was just a commitment, "Oh yes, this is the place I'm going to live." and whole-heartedly going into all of this.

Ann: What was the transition piece?

Ione: Well, it was the commitment and a shift-I guess of surrender. You begin to ignore your own skepticism.

Ann: In our particular part of the country there is tremendous skepticism-actually it is true of all places. Do you let go of that? That's a profound thing?

Ione: Yes.

Ann: People are skeptical to stay on purpose for this higher knowing. It's so incredibly important.

Ione: I don't know if that came as a result of a series of experiences but I remember feeling it in this room. There have been many things that have happened prior to that- -a lot of them have happened in Egypt. I can tell you a couple of them. My partner, Pauline Oliveros is a wonderful composer of contemporary music, she was teaching at my Women's Mysteries Retreat this summer and the question for the group was, "What is harmony?" The first thing that popped into my mind, was a moment on my second trip to Egypt at Sakkara, the location of the Step Pyramid. An archeological dig was in progress, I had an appointment the next day with the Director of Antiquities. It looked like a scene from Return of the Mummy- workers silhouetted on the hilltop and there was Professor Taufig in a pith helmet. A woman with him was dressed in white with a flowing robe. He looked at me beckoned," "Come!". I went over really fast to a big hole and men were pulling this big thing up on a rope right in front of me. It was a block of sandstone carved with a beautiful figure of a harpist on the side and the Professor looked at me and said, "See". It hadn't been seen in 3500 years. It was amazing that I was there at that moment. There was a sense of harmony with all there is, with what had brought me to this time and place. That was quite extraordinary. There were other experiences in the Great Pyramid. We went to PHILAE, the ancient temples of Isis in Upper Egypt. The last hold out of the ancient religion is there and when you're touching those stones you connect to traces of what was and still is. One year on one of my early journeys to Egypt, we did a ceremony in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid. There is a granite sarcophagus there. There never was a body in it. It was used for other purposes.

Ann: I've seen the ones in New York City. It's much bigger then a body right?

Ione: Yes. You can lay in it, like a big tub. We were doing healings and at that point, I wasn't in it, I just put my hand down to do the healing, and something happened-an opening to All There Is. An opening of time and space that was so strong it knocked me back against the wall of the pyramid. It was undeniable. I was not feeling very spiritual at the moment-kind of regular. I wasn't expecting some big thing. In fact, it's often been that way. I'm not going with a preconceived thought that something amazing is going to happen.

Ann: The experience alone changes someone and sometimes when things like that happen it's an anointing for your being to move forward in a special way.

Ione: I did feel it was an anointing.

Ann: For that much force to come at that particular time.

Ione: It's the kind of anointing that is still with me. I can teach from that place.

Ann: I've been doing things like that myself. Getting into those access points and once your there you carry the energy. Each of these experiences just lead you on?

Ione: Yes. There have been quite a few things along those lines.

Ann: If somebody was interested in opening their connection along those lines to All There Is or to the Divine or, whatever kind of language you want to use for it, what kinds of things do you think are important for a person to do? Do they meditate? Do they pray? Do they find a teacher? What would you say to someone who is hungering to understand more; to be more; to know more?

Ione: I think a teacher is good, meditation is amazing throughout life. I think finding one's creative expression is crucial. I remember the journal workshops I used to do. In those groups Novels and huge tomes could be created, large Theatre works or, depending on the person, it could be quite a bit smaller but just as momentous. One woman just wanted to be able to write a good letter to a friend and that was very beautiful. She was able to achieve that. There are painters, who with the support of the group, are able to move through aspects and paint in truly creative ways or create in a way that is not a rubber stamp or mold. This, I feel, is very important to our life force and to our ability to commit to the Holy Spirit. I know in my life, as a younger woman, just to be a good mother and to create a good home was incredibly creative. Sometime people would say “Is that all you did?" because it was out of context of what they thought was creative. How important is it for each person to find their own…

Ione: That's a part of my teachings. One of the most important and different aspects of my teaching is it's eclectic, in a sense I don't teach. I'm very interested in each person coming to their own understanding of what it is for them, what they need to do and how they are making, will make those connections. That's hard because people really want to be told what to do. I offer a selection of ways. I do teach, of course, and give different understandings. I give a lot of space because I want the women to find what it is for them. Each is different. For example I ask, What is the healing heritage that you're coming from? They might not even know. It may come in a dream. Maybe it has to do with their great grandmothers. That might be something we explore, giving time to find out how to pull that through.

Ann: I teach very much like that. I say there's a blueprint or a template, a schematic inside of each person. If you can find the ways in, your life will be richer. It may not be easier, but it is directed in some way. Do you think that God or divine essence can hear us as individuals if we call out?

Ione: Yes, of course.

Ann: How do we then know that we have been heard? When an answer comes, how would we know the difference between what may be an ego answer, or a mystical, divine answer?

Ione: Well-that's where we need fine tuning. That's where the training comes in.

Ann: You can‚t just do it? There are skills that you have to develop?

Ione: Yes. That's why I call it a training program. The training is experiential and you have to practice.

Ann: You have to just do it.

Ione: Yes. You practice. I practiced, and am still practicing. I use the term "levels" for women who want to go deeper. Periodically, for myself, I feel and I describe it as being more in It, in what Is. Being more intuitively attuned to All There Is. The more you practice, the more you understand about yourself. You begin to discern what is coming through divinely and what's your stuff.

Ann: In the beginning the stuff gets in the way. It really does for everyone but in the refinement you move in a refined path. You're hearing the music, hearing the direction and it's quite beautiful. It makes life much easier.

Ione: Yes. It's very special. I support people in my private practice and in-groups in that way.

Ann: That's wonderful. To find a teacher that supports that is fabulous. I find for a woman to study with a woman is exceptionally important. Not that I can‚t learn from a man, but there's something quite different if it's women working with women.

Ione is a shaman, author and master teacher. She is the Director of Ministry of Maat and Women‚s Mysteries: Healing the Intuitive. Ione wrote Pride of Family ,Four Generations of American Woman of Color and The Play - Nijnga the Queen King, The Return of a Warrior.

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