Spirit in Action, Part One: A Conversation with Woman Stands Shining

February 10, 2023 | By The Pachamama Alliance

Pat McCabe Woman Stands Shining

The following conversation was part of the Resilience and Possibility series. To access the recording, please scroll to the bottom of this post.

This is Part 1 of a 3-part offering on the topic of “spirit in action.” These conversations on spirit in action explore how we can all access a more powerful and consistent connection to spirit while being in action to bring forth a thriving and just future for all. 


On October 5, Diné Ceremonial Leader Woman Stands Shining (Pat McCabe) joined the global Pachamama Alliance community for a conversation on spirit in action. Pat McCabe is a mother, activist, writer, artist, international speaker, ceremonial leader, voice for global peace and healing, and long-time advisor to Pachamama Alliance. 

During the call, Pat offered many insights around what it means to take action while being guided by spirit, drawing from both her Diné background and the Lakota spiritual tradition. She shared key learnings from her own personal journey around this inquiry, while illuminating important nuances around the concepts of agency and intellect. 

The Importance of Surrendering to Spirit

As Pat was reflecting on how to take action while being guided by spirit, she explained that the first step is to surrender to the unknown. 

What Pat meant by this was to let go of the need to know everything and the need to have the answer—or even the idea that one can know everything. She explained that when one is at the limits of what one knows, that’s when spirit reaches into the mind and body to present something new. 

One of the ways this is experienced in some of the spiritual communities Pat is a part of is through fasting. During these fasts, participants must go 4 days without food or water as they engage in ceremony.* Pat described how it doesn’t feel humanly possible to complete this fast, unless one embraces the unknown and the possibility of failure. This is what allows one to keep going even if the way forward is unclear. And as Pat put it, it is at this point that spirit comes to meet you and carry you the rest of the way. 

What these ceremonies have taught Pat is to surrender her will to spirit so that the door to mystery opens, and a different kind of logic and perspective reveals itself. 

The Limitations of Individual Ingenuity 

As Pat spoke about the power of surrendering to spirit, she shared key insights around the concepts of agency and intellect. 

She explained how modern day paradigms have taught only a certain kind of agency, one of fierce individualism that focuses on the ingenuity of the individual. But as Pat explained, directing human ingenuity and agency without acknowledging how deeply interconnected we all are is how we arrived at the crises facing humanity. As she put it, acknowledging this interconnectedness includes consulting with the larger community of life that includes all living and spiritual beings. 

“If we’re truly one interbeing and truly a single organism that has all these expressions of life… then of course any action that I’m thinking I’m going to take, I should take it to the rest of the organism that is going to be affected and is affecting me at every moment.” 

The Challenge of Embracing Spiritual Wisdom

Pat made it clear that listening to and being guided by spirit is challenging work that takes practice.

As Pat pointed out, spirit rationale is different from academic rationale, which is why it can be so difficult to know how to listen to spirit. She went on to describe her own personal journey of learning how to let go of what is typically thought of as “rational” and “logical,” and instead embrace the wisdom of spirit. She acknowledged that she didn’t learn to do so of her own accord. Rather, Pat learned how to do this through what she calls “forced surrender” during a time when she was experiencing loss in her life. Despite the difficulties she was experiencing, Pat continued to engage in ceremony, through which she was able to learn how to be in a state of receptivity and trust spirit to guide her. 


*Pachamama Alliance is not promoting fasting or other similar activities, especially without the guidance of experts. Please consider consulting with your physician or other medical professionals if activities like this are of interest to you.