Jazz 455: Creativity & Consciousness Studies Mysticism & Shamanism Course Syllabus

Jazz 455: Creativity & Consciousness Studies

Explorations in Consciousness

Mysticism & Shamanism

Martha Winona Travers

mtravers @ umich.edu

Winter 2023/ Weds 6:00 8:00

What the people of the city do not realize is that the roots of all things are tied together. When a mighty tree is felled a star falls from the sky.

Chan Kin Viejo. Quoted in Joan Halifax,

The Fruitful Darkness

In this course we will explore two world views: mysticism & shamanism. Within these world views, certain assumptions about the nature of consciousness are embedded. Both mysticism & shamanism share the perception that individual human consciousness is part of a larger consciousness in which the entire Universe participates.

The mystic, as represented for example by the poetry of Walt Whitman, experiences a mingling of his or her small self/ego self with other beings and realities. So Whitman can write, There was a child went forth; and the first thing he saw, that thing he became.

The shaman also experiences this mingling of selves and is a healer in the tribe. Typically, the shaman is one who can move between worlds. S/he can cross from one reality to another and back again without getting caught by either reality. The shamanic perspective often includes a perception that the individual consciousness can enter into larger consciousness & in some way affect or alter reality by so doing. Hence the chant in Leslie Marmon Silkos Ceremony , The story you tell is the story that happens.

Course Texts: Stephen Harrod Buhner. Sacred Plant Medicine: Explorations in the Practice of Indigenous Herbalism (ISBN:I-57098-086-1 paperback/ I-57098-085-3 hardcover)

Jeremy Narby. The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge (ISBN: 0-87477-964-2)

Course Assignments:


In this course, you are learning nature-based contemplative practice. These nature-based contemplative practices will be explained further in class. There will be regular journal assignments connected to these practices: schedule to be announced.


In addition to the journals, there will be three formal essays in this class.

Essay #1: Response to Narbys Cosmic Serpent . 5 page minimum. Due: February 1.

Essay #2: Response to Buhners Sacred Plant Medicine. 5 page minimum. Due: February 29.

Essay #3: Reflections on the Course. 4 page minimum. Due: April 11.

Describe your process of learning nature-based contemplative practices, differences

you see/experience in yourself since the beginning of the term; how your experience of the natural world has changed, new insights that you have gained, etc. Include your

thoughts, questions, comments about mysticism and shamanism as represented in the course content & in the course reading.

Attendance: Course grade is significantly dependent upon being present in every class. You may miss one class without needing to do a make-up. If you miss more than one class, in order to not have your grade affected, you must do a make-up by visiting one of the meditation/contemplative experiences listed below & by writing a one-page description of your experience; due by the last day of classApril 11. Any student who misses more than three classeseven if a make-up is done for two of themwill not receive an A.

Winter Weather Advisory.

I do not live in Ann Arbor. If we have a very snowy or icy day, check your email before class to be sure we are meeting.


To make up class, you can attend a sitting meditation session at one of the centers listed below. You may also email me to suggest a different contemplative practice at a different center. These are simply the ones I know about. To have the experience fulfill the make-up requirement, you need to write a one-page journal reflection describing your experience.

Please check by phoning the center before you go to confirm that the address has not changed and to find out the time when sitting sessions are open to the public. Also check to see if there is a charge or a donation. Please let me know if any of the phone numbers or addresses have changed.

1) Zen Buddhist Temple. 761-6520. Packard. Check the timing, but I believe they have a Sunday afternoon 4:00 sitting service that is often attended by college students.

2) Siddha Yoga Center. 3017 Miller Rd. 734-726-0318. I believe they have a Thursday evening sitting that is open to guests. Again, phone first to check on timing & appropriateness of your visit.

3) Jewel Heart. 1129 Oak Valley Dr. 994-3387. There may be a fee; phone first.

4) Friends Meeting House. 1420 Hill St. 761-7435. This is the Quaker meeting house. They have a Sunday morning service. The service is silent. You can ask for more information when you phone.

5) Canterbury House. 721 E. Huron. 665-0606. This is the Episcopal Church center on campus. They have a Jazz mass on Sundays. Phone for details.

Let me know if there is a center, temple, church, synagogue or other organization that offers meditation or contemplative practice to the public that you think I might add to this list.

Further Reading:

John Bakeless. America as Seen by its First Explorers

Henry Beston. Herbs and the Earth

Henry Beston. The Outermost House

Doug Boyd. Rolling Thunder: An Exploration into the Secret Healing Powers of

an American Indian Medicine Man

Walter Holden Capps, ed., Seeing with a Native Eye: Essays on Native American Religion

Barry Cottrell. The Way Beyond the Shaman: Birthing a New Earth Consciousness

William Cronon. Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England

Wade Davis. One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rain Forest

Masaru Emoto. The Secret Life of Water

Alan Ereira. The Elder Brothers: A lost South American people and their Message about the Fate of the Earth

Joan Halifax. The Fruitful Darkness

Jamake Highwater. The Primal Mind

William Morris. Useful Work versus Useless Toil, in Political Writings of William Morris , ed. A.L. Morton.

Arnie Mindell. The Shamans Body: A New Shamanism for Transforming Health, Relationships, and the Community

John Muir. The Wild Muir: Twenty-two of John Muirs Greatest Adventures

Helen and Scott Nearing. Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in aTroubled World

Mary Oliver. New and Selected Poems

E.F. Schumacher. Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered

Leslie Marmon Silko. Ceremony

David Suzuki. The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering our Place in Nature

Don Alverto Taxo. Friendship with the Elements (available at www. ushai.com)

Peter Thompkins and Christopher Bird. The Secret Life of Plants

Henry David Thoreau. Walden

Alan Weisman. Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World

Walt Whitman. Leaves of Grass

The mystic experience:

We two, how long we were foold,

Now transmuted, we swiftly escape as Nature escapes,

We are Nature, long have we been absent, but now we return,

We become plants, trunks, foliage, roots, bark,

We are bedded in the ground, we are rocks,

We are oaks, we grow in the openings side by side,

We browse, we are two among the wild herds spontaneous as any,

We are two fishes swimming in the sea together,

We are what locust blossoms are, we drop scent around lanes

mornings and evenings,

We are also the coarse smut of beasts, vegetables, minerals,

We are two predatory hawks, we soar above and look down

We are two resplendent suns, we it is who balance

ourselves orbic and stellar, we are as two comets,

We prowl fangd and four-footed in the woods, we spring

on prey,

We are two clouds forenoons and afternoons driving overhead,

We are seas mingling, we are two of those cheerful waves

rolling over each other and interwetting each other,

We are what the atmosphere is, transparent, receptive, pervious,


We are snow, rain, cold, darkness, we are each product and influence

of the globe,

We have circled and circled till we have arrived home again, we two,

We have voided all but freedom and all but our own joy.

Walt Whitman

Fall 2023 Honors 135 Beyond Sustainability: The Methodology and Practices of Permaculture Syllabus

HONORS 135- Section 005 Fall 2023

Beyond Sustainability: The Methodology and Practices of Permaculture

Tuesday 2:30 pm to 4:00 pm 210 Tappan Hall

Instructor: Madeline C. Dunn

Email: maddunn@umich.edu

Office hours are by appointment


This class aims to engage you all in the lifestyle surrounding permaculture principles and ethics. Permaculture stands for permanent-agriculture and is a design science that uses patterns found in nature to create zero waste, regenerative systems. We will spend some time analyzing permaculture design within food and social systems. However, I am most interested in you discovering how to use the 12 principles and 3 ethics ( earth care, people care, and fair share ) to enhance your daily lives and inspire the use of holistic and systems thinking in your career and senior thesis planning. Permaculture as a design science can also be used to regenerate happiness and well-being within societies and within our minds. Through the outside of class assignments, you will gain skills in interviewing, utilization of multi-media, and prepare yourselves for the construction of your own Honors Thesis project: a task in which you will all be embarking on during your time here at the University of Michigan and possibly beyond.

Classroom Environment:

Respect yourselves, your classmates, and me by completing the required readings and actively participating in the appropriate amount of outside of class activities. This will inherently enhance both class discussion as well as the quality of the online class blog site which I am using to document the work completed in this section of Honors 135. Class may not always extend through the entire 1.5 hours of time allocated towards this section. This longer class block is intended to give us time to meet in the Nichols Arboretum or Matthaei Botanical Gardens if necessary. If we finish discussion before our time is up, you will be free to leave early.


Attendance is required. If you miss a day of class, you can make it up by completing one extra outside of class activity listed on the list, or coming up with one of your own, and blogging about.

Required Texts:

Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren

The Permaculture Activist Magazine- As a class, we have a diverse set of copies of this publication to share throughout the semester. Students will circulate them between each other at the beginning of each class. Remember to take personal notes and keep track of the articles that inspire you as well as articles that you disagree with for our discussion on the last day of class. This inherently teaches sustainable and sharable community development within the classroom environment. See the CTools resources folder labeled Permaculture Activist Magazines for a complete list of our class copies.


This class is counted as pass or fail credit therefore your engagement with the material will be based on blog posts and attentiveness during class. Your engagement with the speakers will be measured based on the quality of questions that you come prepared with to class.

Required outside of class activities:

Below is a list of required outside of class activities you must all complete by the end of the year. Feel free to attend your four required outside of class field trips with a group, a partner, or alone. You are also required to choose two options from the secondary list found on CTools in the resources folder titled Outside of Class Activities, in addition to the four below. Please see CTools for specific instructions/directions on each outside of class activity.

1) Go to the farmers market in Kerrytown and interview at least two stand owners in order to create a photojournalism assignment that you will post to the blog no later than October 1 st 2023.

2) Conduct Holmgrens self-audit no later than October 15 th 2023. We will discuss these in class. There is no need to post your self-audits to the blog and you are not required to send them to me. I want you to be honest with yourself and have the ability to come back and revise this on your own time.

3) Submit an opinion piece on a topic we have covered this semester to a local, regional, national, or even global publication and post it to the blog no later than October 29 th 2023.

4) Keep a waste journal for three days this semester and blog about the experience no later than November 5 th 2023 (all in one post please so remember to take long-hand notes during the exercise). Make sure that at least one day is a weekend and one is a week day. This can include taking photos of the waste, creating an art project with the waste and documenting it, or simply recording the waste and journaling about the experience. You will first want to create a definition of waste. See this example of a semester long waste journal that I kept: http://mywastejournal.wordpress.com/



Everyone is required to personally post to our class blog . Blogging can be done in pairs of two if you wish to embark on a point/counterpoint style piece. Each week, you are required to upload at least one post to the blog. These posts are separate from the brief paragraphs that you are required to post on your outside of class activities. Blog posts can consist of the following: your opinion of a lecture on campus or in Ann Arbor and how it relates to permaculture, commentary on the content our guest speaker (if there was one) of the week shared with the class and how the topic relates to permaculture principles and ethics, or on a theme/pattern you discovered within the print material for this course. There may be weeks where I give you a theme to blog about but overall you have autonomy within your posts and posting style. Blogging can be in the form of a video, photo journalism assignment, written text- poem, rap, short essay, or any other creative format you come up with.

9/10/13 Week 1: Course overview/Get to know each other

Before Class:

Please complete the Planet Blue online ambassador training program: http://sustainability.umich.edu/pba/planet-blue-ambassadors

In Class:

Go over the effectiveness of the Planet Blue Online Ambassador Training and any surprises/concerns you have with it.

Interview each other in preparation for required Ann Arbor Farmers Market photojournalism assignment.

9/17/13 Week 2: Sustainability Education

Before Class:

*Read articles on CTools under the folder labeled 9/17/13 Week 2 Materials

*Read Preface, Introduction and Ethical Principles of Permaculture of Holmgrens Permaculture Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability.

In Class:

Class will be held at Nichols Arboretum. See CTools announcement Directions to the Nichols Arboretum for directions. We will identify permaculture systems in nature as well as envision how the land looked hundreds of years ago and what it may look like after human existence . Class will start at 2:50 pm (10 minutes late) and end at 3:50 pm to support your travel to and from the Arboretum.

9/24/13 Week 3: Feel, Before You Act

Before Class:

Principle 1: Observe and Interact in Holmgren

Principle 2: Catch and Store Energy in Holmgren

In Class: Plant walk in Nichols Arboretum with Zach Gizicki

10/1/13 Week 4: Intelligent Design

Before Class:

Principle 3: Obtain a Yield in Holmgren

Farmers market photojournalism assignment due

In Class:

Class will be held at the Chiwara Permaculture Research and Design Lab. Class will start at 3:00 pm (20 minutes late) and end at 3:45 pm to support your travel to and from this location. See CTools announcement Directions to Chiwara R&D Lab for directions.

10/8/13 Week 5: A Regenerative You

Before Class:

Principle 4: Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback in Holmgren

Principle 5: Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services in Holmgren

In Class:

Guest Speaker- Bryan Mets speaks about the human carbon cycle .

10/15/13 Week 6: Fall Break

10/22/13 Week 7: Waste not Want Not/Local Food Supporting a Healthy You, Community, and Economy

Before Class:

Principle 6: Produce No Waste in Holmgren

Holmgrens Self-Audit exercise due

Principle 7: Design from Patterns to Details in Holmgren

Principle 8: Integrate Rather than Segregate in Holmgren

In Class:

We will be visiting the Campus Farm at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. Please meet in front of the Michigan League at 2:40 pm to catch the green cabs. We will be at the farm for roughly 40 minutes. We will briefly speak with a 4 th grade class from Summers Knoll and tour the Campus Farm learning about bio-mimicry in agriculture systems as well as proper harvesting and consumption of the various plants and herbs on site.

10/29/13 Week 8: Sustainable/Regenerative Land Use

Before Class:

Principle 9: Use Small and Slow Solutions in Holmgren

Principle 10: Use and Value Diversity in Holmgren

Op-ed piece due

In Class:

Guest Speakers- Mark Angelini and Trevor Newman from Roots to Fruits Edible and Ecological Land Landscape Design .

11/5/13 Week 9:

Before Class:

Principle 11: Use Edges and Value the Marginal In Holmgren

Principle 12: Creatively Use and Respond to Change in Holmgren

Waste Journal Assignment Due


This weeks blog post must be an analysis of how the permaculture principles were and were not modeled within the structure of this course. Also, briefly state how you would have structured the course differently if you were teaching it as well as what you would have kept the same.

In Class:

Class will be held at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. Please meet in front of the Michigan League at 2:40 pm to catch the green cabs. We will be at the gardens for roughly 40 minutes focusing on the honey bee sanctuary and speaking with UM Campus Farm Manager Parker Anderson.

11/12/13 Week 10: Wrapping Up

Before Class:

Revisit your initial definitions of the word permaculture from the beginning of the semester and come up with a new one based on your new knowledge of the theory and practice.

Please review your self-audit and come to class prepared to discuss what you learned about yourself through this assignment.

In Class:

Discuss what we all learned from the class and each other roundtable style and discuss your favorite Permaculture Activist Magazine articles.

A Start of a Hello

Goodbye class! And hello, a permaculturist lifestyle.

Beyond Sustainability: The Methodology and Practices of Permaculturemade me think a lot about the way we lived, the things we value, and what we can change. After taking this class, I feel a lot more educated about the broad topics that exist within the permaculturist world, and because I know they exist, I can now look more into them and try to improve the way I live, for the sake of myself, my great grand-children, and the planet.

The twelve permaculture principles listed in Holmgrens book were all integrated within the course through different trips and some principles were clearly everywhere, especially Observe and Interact.

I think this class is a great kickstart to introduce students to a new living style that will ultimately bring benefits to the future.One thing I would change, if I could and it doesnt cause too much discontent in others, is to have to class more often! Its a great stress reliever and we learned a lot of things about living in a way that is more mindful of the environment and efficient systems. Also in our era, one environment-related class like this should be one of the requirements to graduate.

I would also elect to search for an internship, but it might not end up being exactly an internship. Many internships I found were only for students already in the pharmacy program and a lot of people I talked to (professors, advisors, other pre-pharmacy students) advised me to apply to become a pharmacy technician. I will continue looking for more opportunities throughout the school year for more pharmacy related things and also try to apply for positions as pharmacy technician. Thank you, professor, for all your hard work in teaching us and helping us with our futures! I am really glad I took this course.

Outside of Class Activity

During one of the weekends I went home, I helped out (a little) at my uncles farm.

I helped feed the chickens and put a new small chicken into the coop. There was one rooster that picked fights and bullied all the hens, and there was one hen and one other rooster who fought back. I ended up sitting there talking to them (but mostly myself) for about an hour while my uncle gave his Siberian Husky a bath and prepared food for the children inside.

When I walked inside, I saw that my younger cousin owned some electronics but rarely touched them. Instead he asked us to go outside and shoot with him. I didnt exactly know what he meant but then he pulled out a bow and arrow and a BB gun. I realized his lifestyle was a lot different from mine, and a whole lot more active. There was a lot of space to run and put targets and cans to shoot at, and meanwhile he told me a story about how his dad was practicing shooting in the barn with a real gun and his little sister walked in and almost got shot. It sounded so unreal to me, mostly because in my life, I dont think I have ever seen a real gun in action. He asked me to try shooting the gun and I held it with one hand and he exclaimed, Ohohoho, look at you, one hand already! And I didnt understand at all, but he explained, You have to hold it with two to stabilize it, unless I guess, youre pro with one hand. I remembered that I learned that before but I didnt recall that fact when I had to put it into practice. He then talked fondly about running around the farm and catching fireflies during most nights in the summer.

Later, they ate small heads of corn and offered me one. It wasnt nearly as sweet as the ones we find in the grocery store but it tasted more . . . real? Or natural? Im not sure how to describe it. It seemed like they did not depend on grocery stores for their main source of vegetables or fruit, and even though I had my laptop with me, I didnt feel like opening it up on the farm. Perhaps it was the atmosphere or because no one else used their electronics during the day, even though they did have them. I had a lot of time to be bored, without the hustle of information from the social media and the Internet.

We went outside to pull some weeds in the fields but ended up trying to get cars to honk. We got about thirty of them to honk. My cousin Andrea also saw her teacher walk past and back to where she came from, and past again, and back again, in that span of three hours. Her tire broke and she was getting one of her relatives nearby to help her get a new one and replace it.

So even though it wasnt exactly an outside of class activity, I think I learned a lot from spending the whole day at my uncles farm. His lifestyle was completely different to the lifestyle I had. I live a sedentary one but my sister is very active and she agreed that it still was a whole lot different. She said that living at a farm seems like it would give her a lot more street smarts and a lot more interaction with how nature works. Life felt a little more simple during our day at the farm, a little more productive, and a little easier to handle.

More Greenery (Op-ed)

I believe that gardens should be a more widespread thing. Roof gardens, backyard gardens, anywhere. Gardens are necessary because they provide many benefitssuch as reducing carbon dioxide in the air, providing healthy, accessible food, and it lets you save money.

Wherever there is free space, we need gardens because the amount of carbon we humans put out is too much for the plants in the world to absorb alone. They need support from even more plants. These plants should be encourage by humans, who have cut down countless trees to make room for ourselves. To give back, even if the original actions were made long before we were born, we should plant things again. The place should be as green as it was when the humans were not there.

In the Permaculture Class at U-M, we learned that the forest used to cover the entirety of Michigan. When people came to settle in Michigan, many of these forests were cut, but now it is making its way back up to the original percentage of land coverage. However, just making it to the original is not sufficient because we have been burning many fossil fuels. This releases more carbon dioxide into the air than before, when the forests covered the entirety of Michigan. So we definitely need more greenery in the world to bring the carbon dioxide to a normal level.

Carbon Footprint

Wow, it takes 4.1 planets to support my lifestyle! Its really surprising because it seems like we go through life day to day easily. We dont often have to worry about running out of food in the market or running out of electricity, and we are not strained too much to have the basics of living. But the strain put on the planet is a completely different story!

There are a lot of things I can do to decrease this strain, such as use less electricity and growing my own food. Maybe using the car a little less or just walking that extra mile.

I think it was good for me to do this because it made me realize how one person can have a large impact on the world and changing the little things really do matter.

Last Words

This was one of the most rewarding classes Ive taken this semester, and most of that is due to its applicability beyond the course. The class was structured around the ideas presented in the textbook and Holmgrens principles, which were discussed during a fraction of class time. While that was all very standard, what made the class especially entertaining and memorable was the time we spent actually observing the principles in action. We visited quite a few locations that employ popular permaculture structures, such as the Campus Farm with its herb spiral and Chiwara R&D Lab with its hoophouses and hugelkultur. Going to the Nichols Arboretum and learning about the practical uses of various herbs also distinguished the class as especially rewarding. But finally, the class was most special in the way it pushed us students to rethink and reconstruct our lifestyles. For me, I never would have known about or visited the Ann Arbor Farmers Market or the Peoples Food Co-op if it werent for this class, nor would I have realized that my waste and consumption are really unnecessarily high for a 17-year old girl obviously I shouldnt be using up 3.7 planets.

Admittedly, this class was a bit of work for a 1-credit class, but I dont mind the blogging. Its the first time Ive ever blogged, and it was a fun experience at least. I liked having to go to the Farmers Market and the Peoples Food Co-op and snapping pictures there as well. Class outdoors also was one of the most refreshing parts of my week. I did not like reading the textbook; however, as this is an educational course on permaculture, I realize it was a necessary component of our learning process. In general, the class and its workload were pretty well-designed and thought out properly, but I might suggest cutting down the external reading, such as the textbook and magazines, and instead discuss them during class time, which was definitely more educational for me.