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Awareness Helps Educate

“May the Sun bring you new energy by day. May the moon softly restore you by night. May the rain wash away your worries. May the breeze blow new strength into your being. May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life.” - Apache Prayer

As a member of Spiritual Directors’ International, I participated in a Native American Spirituality workshop with Dr. Maria R. Barrera, spiritual adviser/chaplain. She is of the Anahuac and Pueblo people. All the quoted words are taken from the workshop, with permission.

“We are all related.” – Maria R. Barrera

Her message is our message.

“Living in a Sacred Manner requires a shift in one's perception of the world and our Earth Mother.” – Maria R. Barrera

The elemental beings exist independently of any other beings. Mother Earth, Father Sun, Grandfather Moon, Grandfather Sky.

“We learn to recognize the elemental beings, earth (stone people), Air, Fire, and Water as the Ancestors of us all. These are but a few of the many ways the Native people referred to our relations.” - Maria R. Barrera
“The Great Spirit is within all creation.” - Maria R. Barrera
“The Green Nations or Plant People depend upon the Elemental Beings for Life. They need no others. The Animal Nations (creepy crawlers, little fliers, four-legged and winged ones) depend upon the Elemental and Plant Beings for their lives. And we two-legged, we human beings are the most dependent of all!! We need the Elements, the plants, and the animals for our lives to continue.” - Maria R. Barrera

Many of us maintain a close relationship to the Standing Tall Nation (the trees). We communicate with each other, cohabitate in the same environment, abide our differences and celebrate the universal presence of Earth Mother.

I hold ancestral guilt and shame for the harm inflicted on all my relations. In the words of Matt Kahn, I commit my life in honoring my relations by saying:

May I hurt without hurting another
May I act from my soul’s highest conduct and not use the behavior of others to justify anything less.
May I abide in kindness and compassion, respect and gratitude for myself, my loved ones and for the world.
May I become the change I wish to see no matter how tiny of a step or how bold of a leap I am willing to take.
May I be the truth I’m hoping to find
May I be the solutions I’m waiting to see for all beings.

Awareness helps educate.

Suffering helps awaken.

Love helps heal.


(from the workshop; used with permission)

“I walk with Earth under my feet

I walk with vision in my eyes

I walk with fire inside me

I walk with Spirit as my guides

When I feel like I can’t breathe

I take a walk and I am healed

I’m walking back to the center

I’m walking through the sacred field

I’m walking deeper and deeper

Learning the secrets to the night

I’m looking into the fire

I’m looking past the light

When I feel like I can’t breathe

I take a walk and I am healed

I’m walking back to the center

I’m running through the sacred field

I hear them calling my name”

Participants’ Reflections:

  • Thank you so much. The synchronicity. You know what they say, when one is ready, the messenger will come. I was so moved by that. I’ve been seeing more and more things about Native American spirituality recently, but that hit me like a ton of bricks. The message I take from that is: life at its most elemental level is so tied to the Earth. Thank you so much.

  • Thank you. Also so timely. Maybe it’s the weather this time of year. It was so glorious this past weekend and I went out and painted. Yesterday, I was reading a book on landscape painting. The author talks about the personality and character of trees, and how that’s what you need to study. I love the way he talks about trees that way. I see personalities in trees. He quoted Emerson as saying how trees are rooted men (people). I just love that.

  • One of the things that came out for me—I’m a third generation in North America—in the process of awakening to Black Lives Matter, I also awoke to the language taught. I’m a settler. I couldn’t get my head around that. I’m not indigenous to this land. We were indigenous somewhere. But the wisdom that comes through from our indigenous people is so ancient, and it’s an opportunity for me to understand, to move forward, to take my otherness and be able to grasp the unity of what being indigenous can mean to all of us.

  • That’s beautiful. It creates more awareness when we use the words to describe who we are and where we are.

  • Thank you. I’m struck by the line “I hold ancestral guilt and shame…”. So many things swirling through my brain about that. I started watching The Underground Railroad last night. It is horrific. And if you read the book Caste, you will understand how even more horrific it is through the lens of that book. I decided I have to give up eating chicken. There is so much about the guilt and shame of the harm that has been done. I don’t know where to go with those feelings other than to acknowledge them and accept them, move forward and do whatever I can to stop the harm so that I am not participating. I’m working towards the errors and lack of empathetic and compassionate behavior that people in the past and present have done and are doing.

  • Thank you, that was beautiful. I’ve been drawn to indigenous people for years. I loved what you read. I feel that way all the time. It circulates through my system, the feelings for animals and trees. Thank you.

  • I think in some ways we are all indigenous people once we recognize our place in nature, and what healing power there is for us to walk in nature, wherever that is. You talked about breathing in nature, when you are out there noticing how you are able to breathe. I think we all have inside us a very direct and healing response to finding ourselves in nature. When we walk, it’s the rhythm of a pilgrim walking a maze. The rhythm takes me out of myself and helps me see what is in front of me.

  • The mindfulness of being in nature. We become one with it. It’s amazing as we open our perception what we pick up when we set our intention and are willing to take the time to be in silence and listen.

  • There are a lot of good people doing a lot of good work. It’s easy to lose awareness of the good others are doing when we hear all the crap happening. But there is such a strong helping movement much like the constant hum of life. I remind myself that when I experience the challenges and feel the pain in the world. We are all part of workings towards the good.

  • Thank you. Thank you for listening to my words. We learn from each other. And as this workshop impacted me, I pass it on, and you pass it on, and others pass it on. It’s the paying forward that creates this healing chain and we just keep going imagining the many strands that become a quilt in the world. We just keep moving forward with it. I use that image a lot when I am stunned by pain, that there is so much good going on in the world. Just to keep going forward. With those thoughts and the prays I said and the love we share, I hope you all have a gentle day.

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1 Comment

This is so true. I've become more and more attracted to Native American spirituality in the past year because of its simplicity, and earth groundedness (if that's a word). I'd really appreciate suggestions on where to start reading about it!

-- David

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