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

About Our Program

Madeline Dunn

After completing an associates certificate in Television Broadcasting and Film Production at Specs Howard School of Media Arts, Madeline attended Northern Michigan University where she studied in the school of Art and Design. When she transferred to the University of Michigan her sophomore year, Madeline felt compelled to become a part of campus life almost immediately, through her participation with the Michigan Hybrid Racing Team, Consider Magazine, and the University of Michigan Ski Team. After becoming the satellite garden coordinator for the Friends of the Campus Farm , Madeline realized that there was a need for permaculture education on the University of Michigan Campus.
She met with Nathan Ayers of Chiwara Permaculture L3C and started the Permaculture Design Team at U of M with Evan Granito. Since that time, Madeline has sponsored research in Environment 391: Sustainability and the Campus, passed down the leadership of the Permaculture Design Team to a six person board, and taught a 10 week Honors Freshman seminar. While attending U of M, Madeline studied contemplative studies and nature-based meditation practices, social theory, climate change mitigation and adaptation, environmental science and sociology, and project development. She never wasted a moment here at the University of Michigan, only taking classes that she was fully engage in and creating a network of cohorts from faculty, to staff, to students who all believed in her same vision for this university.

My vision is for students at the University of Michigan to have a consistent set of affordable opportunities to engage in permaculture education and research within the educational system. On a larger scale, this thesis serves as advocacy for an increase in open source education and the need for an institutionalized permaculture initiative at this university. Permaculture is the ideal complement to the mission of the University of Michigan fostering interdisciplinary creativity within intentional human design and interaction. Permaculture provides a hopeful and positive outlook with its innovative solutions in combating climate change and social disparities through feasible localization strategies. Happiness and unconditional love are also at the forefront of the movement. These are feelings and emotions that humanity is lucky enough to embody and should be more widely recognized as vital to our existence as a society.

Madeline Dunn featured in the Michigan Daily:

-Madeline Dunn

Honors Literature Science and Arts 2023

Social Theory and Practice Residential College

Minor in The Environment and Graham Sustainability Scholar

Evan Granito

I first heard about permaculture design from a friend of mine who was working as a farmhand on a sustainable kibutz in Isreal. There, he helped install agroecological systems that produced food for the residents of the kibutz, while maintaining the stability and productivity of the ecosystem around them. That friend eventually moved back to Michigan and start a small organic farm, which is where I cut my teeth farming, and where I developed a life long passion for sustainable food systems and permaculture design. As a Program in The Environment major at the U of M, the time soon came for me to fulfill the field experience requirement for graduation, which led me to a four-month internship at the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute in Basalt, Colorado. There I studied under Jerome Osentowski and Peter Bane, completing their Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) course in August 2023. Since then I have spent time teaching gardening and ecology to youth in Nevada, lived in Virginia for the Alleghany Mountain School Sustainable Food Fellowship, and currently work as the Urban Program Coordinator for 4-H Youth Development Programs in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I have remained an active permaculturalist throughout all of these experiences, and I have always been received with open arms by the uniquely welcoming world of permaculture enthusiasts.

Permaculture design can be applied to any system, be it social or agricultural, architectural or economic, complex or simple. Traditionally, it has been applied primarily to agricultural systems, so that seems like a logical place to start. I would like to see more food for U of M students being grown on farms and gardens that utilize permaculture design methodology, and those gardens should be easily accessible for the students to see how permaculture systems function and how their food is being produced. Beyond food, University landscaping could easily transition (over time) from purely aesthetic ornamental plants to edible or otherwise useful alternatives, preferably in perennial polycultures of native plants. Similarly, university buildings could all be retrofitted to meet at least the minimum standards for LEED certification. The possibilities are only limited by the commitment of the university, and the positive benefits would be legion.

Perhaps the most valuable way that permaculture could be integrated into U of M is through the programs and curriculum that are available to students. As a PitE major, I was able to make Permaculture Design my specialization during my sophomore year, which entailed selecting 3 relevant courses and writing briefly about how they relate to permaculture. For a field that is rapidly growing in popularity and has such a vast breadth of content, Permaculture Design could easily be offered as a major all its own, as it is at countless other Universities across the county already.

I am an avid gardener, and currently rent two 530 plots at the nearby community garden. This garden was originally intended for WMU students, though a fair amount of community members also own plots there. This is another model for potential permaculture integration at the U of M.I also provided permaculture designs for the UM Campus Farm , as well as designing the King Learning Garden permaculture plot . I practice self-sufficiency by making as many of my own goods and growing as much of my own food as possible. I recently filled my worm bin with straw, newspaper, and oyster mushroom inoculant, to see if I can combine my worm-compost and mushroom growing projects into one dual-yielding system (stacking functions is a common obsession amongst the permaculturally-savvy).

Permaculture also informs a great deal of the programming I organize for Kalamazoo County 4-H Youth Development Programs. Since starting the job in June, I have taught 2 six-week gardening programs for urban youths, organized one long-term environmental education program, and have many similar programs set to begin in 2023. I recently organized an event for 300+ students at a local middle school to pot native perennial plants, which will be planted at a derelict property on the Northside of Kalamazoo in the spring. This property is being renovated by the landbank and will, come spring, host a new club of 4-Hers who hope to grow food in hoophouses and green roofs, eventually selling their produce to other northside residents. Of course, it is my job to ensure the success of projects like these, but my commitment to these endeavors is rooted largely in my commitment to permaculture design, and my desire to always remain an active permaculturalist.

-Evan Granito Founding member and co-president of the Permaculture Design Team until graduating in December 2023

UM Permaculture Design Team

Permaculture Design Team Leadership Board Members
Program Coordinator- Angey Wilson
Communications Officer- Abijah Simon
Event Specialist- Lindsey Scullen
Fundraising Co Chiars- Precious Smith and Will Schrier
Garden Steward- Ha Nguyen

Our organization was officially formed in December 2023, and we hit the ground running with multiple permaculture design projects. As the UM Permaculture Design Team, our goal is to educate and inoculate students and community members with a systems thinking lens and whole systems design knowledge. In this way, we can create more beautiful, productive, and sustainable systems. We have done this primarily through biweekly meetings twice yearly weekend permaculture training events, and occasional guest lectures. We are the first group at the U of M ever to focus on permaculture design, and we remain unique in our integration of education and practical demonstration values. We also seek to provide permaculture designs and consulting services to local clients within the campus and community. We have already provided designs for the campus farm, their satellite gardens, and a 5000 sq foot garden at King School Elementary. We are also aiding in the implementation and maintenance of those designs, thereby enhancing urban beauty, food security and the self sufficiency and knowledge of our group members.

Our organization is immensely important for the benefits it yields for both the student members and the community at large. We are equipping our members with a professional skill set that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. With the knowledge and experience they gain as Permaculture Design Team group members, they can go on to design practical solutions to many problems in our society, regardless of their chosen field of study. Permaculture is fundamentally a connecting system, and every talk, lecture or workshop contains cross disciplinary college curriculum. In his way, our members gain basic skills in landscape architecture, practical botany, green building design, pollution management, ecology, as well as working withered diverse groups of people on complex collaborative projects. Evan Granito Founding member and co-president of the Permaculture Design Team until graduating in December 2023

The Permaculture Design Team is sponsored by the Graham Institute for Environmental Sustainability.

The PDT filled old donated gum ball machines with seed-balls of culinary herbs and native wildflowers. This not only raised awareness about the club but also allowed residents and students to participate in the urban beautification of their community by tossing the seed bombs around Ann Arbor.

Nathan Ayers, founder and director of the Chiwara Permaculture, helped to facilitate the development of the PDT and continues to organize events and host meetings at the Chiwara Research and Design Laboratory.

The PDT redesigned 500 square feet of the 5,000 square foot King Learning Garden with permaculture principles in mind and installed the space in Spring 2023. Since then, the PDT has taught permaculture science to Neha Shaws 5th grade class in the form of closed loop, regenerative system education and plans to do so on a regular basis 3-5 times a semester.

Sepp Holzer, the rebel Austrian Apls farmer, came to the United States go kick off his permaculture certification course in Spring 2023. Holzer gave a lecture on April 2, 2023 free and open to the public presentation at Rackham Graduate Building on U of Ms campus preceding his weekend workshops and installations in Ypsilanti and Detroit. For more information on the Project in Detroit e-mail Nathan Ayers at ayers.nathan@gmail.com



This weekends events kicked off with a free and open to the public lecture by Milarch preceding a nature awareness walk in Nichols Arboretum, a tour of the Chiwara Permaculture R&D lab and a tour of the UM Campus Farm at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens . This entire weekend was open to community members as well as U of M student and remained free of charge.


The University of Michigan Permaculture Design Team is now recognized as a Student Sponsored Organization (SSO) as opposed to a Voluntary Student Organization (VSO).This partnership gives the PDT the rights to use the University of Michigan trademarked block M and allows them to work more closely with the Graham Institute in the development of weekend workshops etc.

The PDT elected six new leadership board members in fall 2023 to serve as the steering committee for the team throughout the next year.

This website serves as a culmination of Madeline Dunns thesis, going live in Fall 2023, and stands as a living document for all things permaculture at the University of Michigan.

Permaculture Principles

Click an icon above to explore its principle.

What is Permaculture?

Permaculture is, according David Holmgren author of Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability , much more than a form of organic gardening (xi). Initially, the word permaculture was coined by Holmgren and Bill Mollison to illustrate the utilization of perennial ecosystems that are useful to plans, animals, and humans. However, they soon realized that the permaculture principles and ethics could be applied to systems beyond those found in agriculture. Holmgren defines permaculture as the use of systems thinking and design principles that provide the organizing framework for implementing the above vision (xix). Interdisciplinary integration and complex systems thinking thrive within this design science to connect diverse ideas and concrete observations. Broadly speaking, permaculture spreads across all disciples from architecture to art and design to the organizational structure of the education system when observing the 3 ethics and 12 principles:


  1. Earth Care
  2. People Care
  3. Fair Share ( equitable distribution of resources )


  1. Observe and Interact
  2. Catch and Store Energy
  3. Obtain a Yield
  4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
  5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services
  6. Produce No Waste
  7. Design From Patterns to Details
  8. Integrate Rather than Segregate
  9. Use Small and Slow Solutions
  10. Use and Value Diversity
  11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal
  12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change

Permaculture was not created by Holmgren and Mollison. These practitioners simply used theses principles within integrative thought when researching the regenerative practices of cultures. For centuries, communities have worked together on a local scale to obtain yield and care for each other and the earth. It is only recently, since the development of petroleum-based energy and products, that society has devalued the use of permaculture thought and action.

There has been a recent shift in thought and mood towards localization and community-based agriculture systems. We saw this in the 1970s with the development of the permaculture concept, and we are experiencing it here at University of Michigan with the push for local food, a campus farm, cooperative living, and interdisciplinary education. The permaculture initiative is a movement of permanent and regenerative culture at the University of Michigan. It touches on all aspects of permaculture including but not limited to food systems, course guidance and structure, and extracurricular, student-based initiatives. This web-site serves as a web that connects all of the different ares of campus that are practicing permaculture. It begins to answer the question of how permaculture is embedded into the structure and culture at the University of Michigan.

(Holmgren, David. Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability , Hepburn, Victoria: Holmgren Design Services 2023.)