Thursday, November 24, 2011


I am thankful - for my partner, and family and friends.  I am thankful for the beautiful abundance of creation.  I am thankful that my ancestors clung fiercely to their culture and their ways and that the inherent tenacity and integrity of Indigenous People is why we persist today. I am thankful that not EVERYBODY builds a celebration this day, upon the bones of the dead.  Igwein Gitchimanido!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Layers and Dragonflies

Grief is not just a feeling that you at some point experience, it is a journey.  This post is an attempt to document my journey through the first year of the loss of my Grandson Kaiden Joshua.  I have layers of emotion, layers of experience, layers of grief over the loss of Kaiden. Its been a year, and still I can be triggered into a grief-storm.  Talking to Kaiden's big sister BreAnna, seeing a baby boy about the age Kaiden would be, a song, seeing a dragonfly... can send me to that place. Dragonflies live out their full lives in a short time span, some as short as 24 hours... I always experience Kaiden as a blue dragonfly.   

My heart today, feels like it felt a year ago... the helplessness I feel, is profound.  My family is hurting and I can't make it better.  Some of the experiences and images from that time cling to me, and to the entire family, and maybe they always will. I know that Kaiden is in an amazing place with his Creator and his ancestors... and that HE is just fine... but that doesn't keep me from recognizing that this situation totally sucks!   I feel like I've come a bit untethered today, like I slithered out of my skin and am free-floating.

I do not pretend to know how it feels to be my Son Joshua or his wife Ashley as the parents of the child who was born directly into heaven... just five weeks short of his due date.  I can only relate the multilayered experience of this Gramma.  I not only journey through the layer of the intensity of my grief for the precious boy we lost, I also journey through the layer of devastation of not knowing how to comfort my Son, Kaiden's father... and his beloved Ashley. Or my daughters, Kim and Erica, the doting Aunties... who waited with such eager anticipation and who are also hurting profoundly.  I am no more help to them, than I am to Josh and Ashley. As a Gramma, my role is to empower and nurture my children and grandchildren, to serve as an anchoring point for them in this world, to be a source of strength.  It mostly feels like I failed miserably at this, when it comes to our journey with Kaiden.  

On the day we lost Kaiden, I told my friend Anne that I didn't know how to be the Mother and Grandmother that my family needed me to be.  Her wise council was that I needed to be the person that Lynn needed me to be, before I could be anyone, or do anyTHING... for anyone else.  While that is absolutely true, I don't feel like I ever GOT there... for any of us.  Maybe I'll talk to her today.

We discovered that there might be complications with the pregnancy, early in the second trimester (I think... maybe it was late in the first).  Our family's journey through the pregnancy was part joy, part hope, part faith, and part just plain scary. Erica and I went to visit  Josh and Ashley a few weeks before his arrival.  It was a beautiful family time of love, affirmation and reconnection.  BreAnna had her first birthday when we were there, it was awesome to be there for that! I spent a fair amount of time lounging on the couch with Ashley, with my hand on her belly, talking to Kaiden and pouring out my love with and without words. Every time I felt him move, it felt like I was holding him.  One evening while Josh and Erica were off doing something... I watched from the living room as Ashley was rocking BreAnna to sleep in her room down the hall.  Ashley was singing Jesus Loves Me to her children. Kaiden snoozing away in the belly beneath his Sister who was snoozing on him... it was a sweet, sweet moment that I will never forget.

I mourn for those experiences we never got to share with Kaiden... those first steps, and first words and walking in the woods together. I wanted to share a birthday with him (he was due on my birthday)... I wanted to share my love of the one leggeds, the two leggeds, the four leggeds, the swimmers, crawlers and flyers.  As a traditional Grandmother, one of my roles is to pass on the teachings... I so wanted to be able to do that. I want to teach my Grandchildren... ALL of them... about turtles and herons and dragonflies.   During this grief journey year, I have neglected to do that with my other Grandchildren, which makes me feel even suckier... I need to work on that.  I love them each completely and profoundly for the amazing and unique spirits they embody.  

This loss took the wind out of my sails, and made me feel like a crappy Mother and Gramma, who didn't have much to offer to her family beyond her immense love.  I know in my left brain, that this is not fair or accurate, but my right brain on the other hand is not on board... it just knows how much this all hurts.... and wants to just make it all better.. and simply cannot.

I just hurt... down to the deepest places of my being.  It always helps me when I'm in turmoil, to seek out the trees, the woods, the water and the rocks. Those places are where I hear Creator's voice most clearly, and feel Creator's love most keenly. The hills and the trees wrap me in their arms and help me gather myself again - perhaps I'll take to the woods sometime today. 

Today, is also my anniversary.  I have been partnered with my amazing Jen for 15 years, I love her utterly and completely. And she loves me beyond all reason. I celebrate our love and commitment, our relationship and our life!   It is hard to have these 2 anniversaries on the same day though... on the one hand woo-hoo celebratory... on the other hand... not so much.  I don't know how to be fully present in both, yet they both deserve my full presence.

I do know that I'll be drumming later today... and that is always, ALWAYS good for me.  I'll be drumming with people who are very dear to me.  Being in their loving presence will be perfect.  Rhythm succeeds, where words fail.  Perhaps, by expressing through rhythm... I'll drum my way back into my skin.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Long Road to Forgiveness

Months and months ago... even longer ago than my last post here... I was sitting in a pew, listening to a sermon... not just being there while that was happening... but really listening. The sermon rocked cause the Pastor is phenomenal! I had previously been "unchurched" as they say for some 25 years... and finding this particular church... with this AMAZING pastor changed that for me. I still absolutely... positively follow my traditional Native spiritual path, but I also am enriched by integrating other things, sometimes I am positively giddy about the connections I find! But... I digress.

The sermon centered around forgiveness. As I look back now... at that moment... I started a journey.  When the Pastor gave that sermon, it was like she took a big ole stick and stirred a long dormant pot... and things began to cook. I just went and looked at some of my journals, that sermon was just a couple days shy.. of a year ago! I guess the cooking that began at that point is of the slow - cookin variety! 

I have a wonderful family... my children, my super-supportive Sister... but I haven't involved them in this process directly. They are awesome and I love them, each and every one... maybe I was trying to protect them... from being hurt by that which has hurt me for so long.  I also have what I consider my support team, who HAVE each been directly involved in all of this... I've had many conversations with these most excellent people:

  • My wonderful partner, who loves me beyond all reckoning... who was there when the  memories and awarenesses first resurfaced in me and scared me to death... who knows me better than most anyone and who loves the person I truly am. I never would have had the courage to face this... without her all encompassing and unconditional love. 
  • My therapist who asks hard questions, who holds up the mirror regularly and calls "bullshit" when that needs to be done, and sometimes... it does! 
  • My Pastor who who helped me to truly... believe... and who has held my hand and watched my back... and walked alongside me on this journey through some pretty scary places. This journey has resulted in an amazing friendship! This beautiful person is no longer my Pastor, she has been called elsewhere to serve.  But, she was the first person I EVER considered to be MY Pastor... and in the reaches of my innermost heart, she's Pastor Emeritus, released of that official responsibility, but honored for her role.  So... for the purpose of this writing she will remain in that Pastoral role... since when I started this journey... and this writing... she still was my Pastor  :-) 
  • My dear friend who has become my Sibling/Brother/Counterpart... a true kindred-spirit (you know who you are - I love you - I am blessed!). You have taught me BOLDness... or helped me to reclaim it at very least! 
So yeah, lots and LOTS of conversations... regarding childhood sexual abuse. Something that had haunted me and over time hollowed me out like a Jack-o-lantern, and caused me to go to some pretty dark places, and engage in some pretty unhealthy behaviors. My work with each of these beautifully loving souls has been very empowering, but the whole forgiveness thing still seemed beyond my reach.

No one said or even suggested that I had to forgive my abuser. I just felt like SOMETHING was supposed to be done... to enable me to move forward and forgiveness was the only word I had. My therapist, suggested to me that I needed to define forgiveness for ME... find MY definition. I guess I didn't know I could DO that, that it was mine to define. I felt like forgiveness was this certain thing that by its very definition contained certain components. If it WAS mine to define I certainly didn't know how to do THAT without being stuck with the aspects that I either reject, or at the very least I was not yet at a place where I could consider them. It seemed to me at that time, that if I removed those components we were no longer talking forgiveness, but something else entirely.

  • Excerpt from my journal: “does forgiveness have to be complete… a blanket sort of deal… or can I craft my own contract where I define the terms and conditions?” 
  • Journal Excerpt 2 "Forgiveness is an act of creation. You can choose from many ways to do it. You can devise a blanket of forgiveness. You decide" - Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęs    A blanket of forgiveness and I get to decide... WHO KNEW? 
So as I rolled it around and around (kind of like a bowling ball: big and heavy), I just couldn't find the holes that allowed me to hold it, and guide it.... it was just... unmanageable. It is like my therapist handed me the ball, but it was just too heavy to hold like it was, so I put it down and just looked at it, not knowing what to do. "Yep... that's mine all right... there it IS... now what?" But that Sunday, when the Pastor spoke of Grace, that which just IS... that which it is not possible to earn... a subtle shifting began to occur.  It was like in the old game of Moustrap... something was set into motion... that was going to take a series of interactions to come about. Boot kicks bucket... marble down zigzag chute...marble hits pole, down the bathtub drain... etc... I've never been too spiffy at engineering... so it took several tear downs and re-constructions to build a sequence within ME... that could work. Doing things the hard way... its what I DO!

I began rolling this thing around with Grace in mind and to my surprise and relief, I noticed that there did seem to be some holes in that old clunker of a ball after all. They were not as well formed as they needed to be, and certainly not as deep as they needed to be. I couldn't heft the thing and give it a roll... yet. But I DID see that I was on the path to being able to do that. The concept and the word Grace was helping me frame this work. I even defined what GRACE meant for me, in this situation... Not only the Godly gift that people think of when they hear the word... but for me... Grace is also defined as:

Gently - gotta be gentle... with ME

Releasing - that was what I knew was needed, some kind of release

Anger - yes Maam, I've got a mountain of it, even though when asked, I flat denied it.

Creating - I had to craft it... for ME

Empowerment - I felt powerless in that situation and I needed to reclaim MY power

This helped me frame it, but I still struggled with the notion that forgiving my abuser, meant somehow giving him a pass... saying all of the things he did to me then, and the residual that has clung to me every day since was okay, and that it didn't matter. That felt like complete and utter bullshit to me... and it still does! I can be very stubborn, as each of my support team has lovingly pointed out... and I stubbornly held onto the anguish.. and to the notion that forgiveness ... was giving my abuser a pass.  I must be clear here... this was my self imposed THING... no one said that forgiveness was that, but something in ME believed it to be so.  My concept of what forgiveness was, and was not... was an unsolvable Gordian knot... tying me to the past.

Although I had been doing a lot of good personal work... I was SO stuck, that knot was so huge and so complex.  It seemed that every bit of work I did, every bit of wonderful guidance from my support team I received, I would turn a corner and the knot would just be sitting there... staring me in the face. "Sooo we meet again..." It was MY knot.. I had crafted it.  No one could untie it for me... that was my work to do.   I considered the question of WHY this issue has persisted as it has for me, I realized it is because a lesson remains for me. I firmly believe that a lesson is repeated... until it is LEARNED.

I know that by doing the hard and consistent daily work of healing, the traumas, and tragedies of our lives recede into their rightful place in the background, like a mountain range in the background of a painting. They are part of the landscape of our lives, but they no longer dominate that landscape. BUT if you have left some of your personal work undone, in MY case... by not forgiving... one day you turn around and "HOLY SHIT!" those mountains have picked up their substantial skirts and have come scampering to the foreground. Suddenly you turn around... there they ARE and you promptly fall on our face! No matter how I worked it, or looked at it... I could not escape the idea that forgiving meant somehow absolving my abuser of what he did, and I do not... I felt like it would be saying it was okay, and that it didn't matter... it is NOT ok and it DOES matter! Those things... were my mountains.

This has been a process... and once that stick stirred things up nearly a year ago... its been like I was watching a bubble rise up through honey. I could see it comin', but it was way slow. A couple of weeks ago... it finally reached the surface, but I somehow could not say the words... and the bubble couldn't pop without my words.  My words were the pin required to deflate that toxic thing... once and for all. I felt that I needed to pray it into existence... to speak its name to the Universe and let that Divine Eternal Love in the center of all that is... carry it off. I went to my aforementioned amazing Pastor and we examined it from various perspectives, this journey of mine. I had this awareness that it had arrived, the moment of forgiveness, and I had intention to make it so... but the words were lost to me.. or they were stuck within me. Anyone who knows me... knows that for ME to lack words... is a bit of a rarity (as the length of this post may attest).

I pray all the time, throughout my day, through words and dance and rhythm... but I had no prayer for this. I asked her to help me give voice to my intention, to put it into the world, I asked, and she prayed it aloud for me... we did this together (and WOW its hard to write this without using her name - just sayin). She suggested that maybe in addition to our prayers of intention... I needed to activate my Native ceremonial practices... Good Call!

  • I haven't mentioned (and I must) that the most beautiful moment with this amazing woman was when she said to me... early in my contact with this church something quite close to "I am so glad you are here ... it is great ! But don't you DARE set aside other things that you do, practices that have meaning for you... and that lift you up... for anything we do here." That loving acceptance has continued.  I never expected that level of acceptance anywhere... the unconditional love and acceptance of who I am... blows me away... to this day! 
So as we spoke of this process... of my bubble as it were... She said my description made her think of boiling mud... which dries and cracks... and crumbles and can be sent on its way in the wind. That gave me my spark!

As I pondered this ceremonial send off, the medicines and my teachings... revealed themselves. The first draft of this post described what I did... in detail, but that's no good.. that's sacred ceremonial work. The details of preparation and specifics the what and the how... those are mine... but in general terms, there was smudging... once prepared in a sacred manner, I held the bowl aloft, to the 4 directions, and as the smoke rolled it carried away my bitterness, it carried with it the gripping power of the past... the bindings that held me to those things, was consumed. I spoke aloud the words of forgiveness... and gave my anguish to my Creator. When the burning was over... I scattered the ashes to the 4 directions, the night breeze sent the particles on their respective journeys. As the last ashes took to the wind, something within me lept for joy... my spirit SINGS and I feel so amazingly FREE!

What has this done for me? As I lifted my burden up into far more capable arms... I find that my own arms are now free to embrace life more fully. That's a downright amazing and beautiful thing! I am embracing my inner otter... the animal totem symbolizing Grace... I'm floating on my back in the blessed waters...

Wawena... Pilamaya and Chii Megwetch to my support team! In the words of a song I love "what we do in love and kindness, is all we ever leave behind" and each of you has left an indelible mark on my life and on my heart.  There are no adequate words for what I now feel... for the place I now stand... you each helped me get here, for that you have my perpetual love and respect!


Friday, June 10, 2011

Midnight Lesbians... in the Center of the World... and beyond!

I had the most awesome experience of attending the 10th annual Philadelphia Trans Health Conference last week.  This was my first time attending the conference (it won't be my last)  - and it was amazing!  There was SO MUCH for me in this experience, I'm going to try to capture some of it here.  Conference attendees that I met asked me what led me to come to the conference. I do not identify as trans, I identify as lesbian and am an ally.  I have an open and affirming spirit, having a very eclectic and diverse circle of friends lifts me up and I like to think that I try to value all people. Am I perfect - no... not even close, but I am deliberate about confronting my ignorance and prejudice when I encounter those things within myself.   I helped to create a safe zone program on the college campus where I work, and I KNOW we need to be doing more regarding trans populations, but I didn't even know where to begin that work.  So when my friend M asked if I wanted to go along on this little road trip, I said YES! 

For starters just the road trip experience was fun and enlightening.  Through conversations ranging from the intensely serious to the ridiculous, each got to know their friend on a deeper level.  We enjoyed some very fun small towns (Beaver Falls - LOL) and roadside stops.  Who KNEW that Turkey Hill (makers of wonderful tea) had their own convenience stores? I joyously walked out of one with a cup of ice and a half gallon of the blackberry tea I love - SCORE!  We enjoyed hours and hours of fabulous music, wonderfully varied scenery,  and moments of outright hilarity and only minimal road rage - I was so impressed with M's navigational prowess (crazy drivers, crumbly looking tunnels)!  "Susan" the GPS was mean spirited at times.  I mean seriously, when we could have made a right turn, and been to our destination, she made us go over the bridge into New Jersey, turn around and come back, only to turn left where we could have turned right - did I mention the $4.00 toll each way?  So yeah... Susan DID get rather uppity and she was given several time outs for her attitude.

When we got to Philly we checked into our accommodations at the Old First Reformed United Church of Christ.  The people were extremely welcoming, and the digs were a fun sort of "slumber party" atmosphere we spread our air mattresses on the floor in what appeared to be a Sunday school room.  It was HOT in Philly, but the AC was on in our building, we had shower facilities, and access to the kitchen... it was great!

Once we were settled we attended some pre-conference activities including the PTHC spirituality leadership luncheon.  I met lots of new folks and I SWEAR one new friend was a re-meeting of an old friend... although we could not identify where our circles could have crossed. Perhaps in another existence.  The leadership of this conference was very responsive in attending to the dietary needs of my traveling companion and myself, which was very nice (thanks C - you ROCK!)!  Our dietary needs are different from each other's as well as different than most folks in general, so dining can be challenging, but we've each learned to be creative and to travel prepared for such things... but having responsive hosts is wonderful!

The luncheon was attended by about two dozen folks with a  W I D E  array of spiritual / religious beliefs and affiliations and experiences.  I was unprepared for and blown away by the number of trans people who are either ordained clergy, or in seminary... not that I thought it was or would be a negative thing, but I simply had no idea!!! It was amazing and humbling to hear people talking about their spiritual journeys and manners in which they walk their spiritual paths. The group was SO diverse... pastors and rabbis and seminarians and Buddhists enjoying fellowship and common purpose.  It was outstanding!

We attempted to go out and grab a quick meal, but between the parking safari and the crazy jacked up prices at the places downtown we popped into, we ended up going back and eating luncheon leftovers, and scooting off to the evening's panel on Gender Diversity and Indigenous Peoples featuring  Nana Akomfohene Korantema Ayeboafo of the Akan culture of Ghana and Chief Bob Mexhalaniyat (Red Hawk) Ruth, Chief of the Lenape Nation. There was great discussion about gender and its role in indigenous societies as well as traditional teachings from these cultures.  Intercultural exchange is a critical component in discovering and drawing strength from common experiences and standing alongside each other as we face oppression.  The fundamental value of Nana's message of "do not feed energy into divisiveness and negativity" cannot be overstated!  

For me, as an indigenous person, this panel was amazing and set the tone for the entire week. The fact that Chief Bob brought the greetings of his nation to our community is a manifestation of the native teachings of love, generosity and wisdom.  Its an example of a People walking their talk.  Talking to Chief Bob after the panel and having him embrace me and call me Sister... made my heart dance! Hearing people, outside of my native circle, talk of the rock people and the trees and the four-leggeds as our kindred connected me to the ancient rhythms of the indigenous peoples in a very real way... and emphasized the interconnectedness of our communities. 

At the conference itself, I attended sessions that were eye-opening and informative.  It was so great that there were several sessions related to indiginiety and gender.  I met people from Lenape, Lakota, Dakota, Cherokee, Blackfoot, Seminole and other tribal traditions.  To hear people talk of the People, and of respect and of intention in the same manner in which I speak of them was so connecting!  For ME the greatest value was in the interactions with people across the vast continuum of trans experience.  I've been trying to process and identify where I was in regard to my knowledge and attitudes related to the trans experience before this conference. That is really, really hard to nail down precisely, but here is what I know for sure... I knew a few individuals who identified as trans, who expressed their identities VERY differently from one another.  I tried to wrap my head around trans issues but I just didn't know enough.  Hell's Bells, I didn't even know... what I didn't KNOW!  However, I did know that the fact that a person identifies as trans, does not require an intervention.   If I couldn't be knowledgeable, I at least tried to be compassionate.  But this is more a manifestation of who I am as a being in relation to other beings... than anything trans-specific. I pretty much lead with my heart in all things, and my head eventually catches up.  By having conversations with folks, by sharing a walk around Philly, by talking in sessions and in hallways, by sharing a meal and a laugh and by stepping boldly out of my comfort zone I have gained a much deeper understanding about the experiences of people who identify somewhere on the continuum of trans experience. What I come away with is that people are just people... how they have arrived at their present expression is not nearly as important as the fact that the have indeed arrived.  I do not know, and can never know what it is like to feel that disconnect between physical body and the essence that we are... our "is-ness" as my friend M puts it, that those who identify as trans experience.  But what I know now is, I don't have to experience it,  to be a friend and ally. I just need to to walk my talk, and continue to examine and confront ignorance and prejudice when I encounter it, and continue to learn.

Nearing the end of this very LONG post, you may be wondering what the hell that title is all about.  On our road trip home, at the end of one long-ass day.  We stopped at a little town of Newton Falls Ohio. Interestingly, we discovered that it is the Center of the World (again... WHO  KNEW ?) ! There was a sign proclaiming such (see above) !!!  We picked what appeared to be the "mid-range" of the 3 lodging choices in town.   The desk clerk seemed a little tired, but amiable enough considering it was 11:58 pm.  She informed us that her night would get markedly better in about 2 minutes. She asked us if we wanted one bed or two (huh... at least she was open to the idea that we might be sharing a bed), we said "two" in unison... she was still cool... then she asked "smoking, or non-smoking?"  When we replied - again in unison "non-smoking" her whole demeanor changed.. she went from tired to downright grumpy!  She gave us a room on the very back row, even though there were many closer units with no vehicles in front of them... but whatever.  We were like WOW "y'all can BE lesbians if you want... but you smoke... RIGHT?!?!?"  Due to extreme fatigue at this point damned near everything was hysterical - so we dubbed ourselves "Midnight Lesbians in the Center of the World" - even though that rolls on some assumptions people make...   I wrote it down... and decided that would be the title of the post I created about my experience.

I was... and continue to be... inspired and lifted up by the amazing people I met.  I learned so much from these folks who walk their path with great integrity... Chii Migwetch (thank you very much) to M, E, E, B, C, J, L, C, A, S, T, and especially to my dear friend M for welcoming me into the sacred space you have created in the world.  This experience has been transformational! I look forward to my continued association with some of these great people as I have volunteered to do some webpage stuff and some grant writing as we move forward.

It is like I've been looking at the world through a straw, and someone, gently, took the straw away - WOW!   

Aho! *

* Aho is a word in the language of my People, the Lakota.  It is difficult to adequately translate due to Anglo language limitations, but the word encompasses "I understand, I affirm what you have said, Amen, Thank You and I am full and could not possibly hold any more..."  

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Interspiritual Lessons

I've followed a Native American spiritual path for many years, always augmented with other things. I have reaped great benefit from the cornucopia in my spiritual basket.  Experiences and practices from Christian, Buddhist, Taoist and a various Earth-based belief systems enrich my spiritual practice.  My foundational Native American beliefs revolve around several core teachings or virtues.  Some Native societies refer to "The Grandfather Teachings."   These teachings are so named because it is the Grandfathers, and Grandmothers at whose knees the people learn the foundational lessons for living.  But I'll just refer to "the teachings."  If you look at The Teachings, I think you'll hear things that sound familiar.  Just as a note, these are the virtues or teachings as I have internalized them, and when I refer to "people" I may be speaking of the one, two, or four legged ones, the crawlers, the flyers or the swimmers, we are all people, in my understanding of creation.

  • Humility - is foundational to all others - is it necessary to be open to learning with all of our senses. We can only truly listen and learn if we drop our preconceived notions, or the idea what we've "been there and done that." Humility is not about belittling oneself or feeling unworthiness, but rather it is freedom from pride and arrogance that recognizes equity and equality.  It is the key that unlocks a great appreciation for all that we have been blessed with by our Creator.
  • Perseverance -  This is about sticking with something that is worth doing, it is about pushing forward until you reach your goals.  To persevere is to keep your eye on your goals, and not let roadblocks shut you down. There is no easy way... those blocks in the road can as easily be stepping stones, as stumbling blocks.
  • Respect - involves positive regard towards self and others for the inherent gifts that they possess and the role that they play in the wider world.  Respect does not require that we agree with everything a person says or does, but that someone's feelings, needs, thoughts, ideas, and wishes are taken into consideration. 
  • Honor - is about trustworthiness... an honest person does what they say... they walk their talk. It also involves going about things in a sincere manner.  It is about right speech - representing things accurately to yourself, and to the world.  Honor is about upholding the things in which you believe.
  • Love - deep feelings of tenderness and affection arising from a feeling of kinship which creates a strong emotional bond.  It is hard to define love, but by saying what love is not.. we get a clearer idea... I really DO like the definition given in 1 Corinthians 13: Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Lead with love... that's my motto.
  • Sacrifice - to surrender something you value for the sake of someone else.  Giving away something you don't care about, is not sacrifice. For example as a symbolic sacrifice, some people give something up for lent. If I gave up coffee for lent, that would be meaningless, because I don't like coffee. For something to be a sacrifice, it has to be a meaningful something, and given up for the benefit of someone or something beyond oneself.  
  • Truth - being in accord with reality.  You'll note I did not mention "facts."  We all have our own realities and our own truths.  The fact that the Earth exists is a fact, it is also a truth.  The idea that the Earth and all that exists was created by One supreme being, (Great Mystery, God, Allah, Gitchimanido, Yahweh etc) is in accordance with my reality, is a core belief for ME and is thus, my truth. 
  • Compassion - awareness of the suffering of another being that is coupled with the wish to relieve it.  If you look upon your fellow being, in a bad situation and feel bad for them, but are also very present in the thought that you are glad it is not YOU... if you are not stepping up to try to alleviate the suffering... you have not quite created a space for compassion.
  • Bravery - is a quality of mind that enables us to face frightening people and circumstances when "logic" might have us walk or RUN away.  Bravery enables us to meet danger and trouble, to walk our talk, and to speak the truth in the face of oppression.
  • Fortitude - is courage in the face of adversity.   Fortitude requires that we dig deep into the well of our emotional and spiritual resources to do what must be done no matter what shit storm is whirling around us. 
  • Generosity - is about giving to others.  Many Native societies still honor the old tradition of the giveaway, in the spirit of generosity and thankfulness.  In the days before colonialism, a giveaway would result in the person literally giving away all that they possessed.  Today the giveaway varies depending on where you see it.  But for ME - this is the way I define it - generosity is giving of yourself to others in some way.
  • Wisdom - take all of the aforementioned, add experience, good judgement, and positive intent and you are approaching a definition of wisdom. Wisdom is the destination, and we never arrive, we are always on the path TO wisdom.
By looking at this list, I see the foundational principles, ethics, commandments etc of most religions. The specific HOW we go about our pursuit of these things varies across spiritual traditions, but the commonalities are much more profound!

Aho - in the language of my people (Lakota) is hard to "define" in with anglo speech limitations but encompasses "I understand, I affirm what you have said, Amen, thank you and I am full (spiritually) and could not possibly hold any more"

Friday, February 18, 2011

Indiana: Arizona Style

A second Indiana Senate committee has voted to advance an Arizona style immigration bill.  My state is going down the path blazed by the state of Arizona.

ONE of my concerns with pieces of legislation such as this is that "reasonable suspicion" is ill defined. A person could easily be pulled over or detained for looking a certain way, or having a certain pattern of speech. These kinds of laws presume a person guilty (of being an illegal) until they can prove their innocence. The presumption of innocence is one of the most basic tenants upon which our system of justice was built, are we just tossing that out the window?  This kind of an environment is inconsistent with the professed American ideals of dignity and privacy, and creates an environment of suspicion between our neighbors and fellow human beings.  

So NOW let's pretend we were a nation of illegal immigrants - oh yeah... we ARE!  Circa 1492 a tidal wave of illegals swarmed our shores, overran its peoples and ignored the established rules of the land (yes, my friends there WERE established governments and agreed upon parameters of living back in those days).  These illegals refused to learn the language, did not abide by the established ways and customs, pillaged, raped and plundered the people and the land and expected the First Nations Peoples to learn THEIR language and ways.  In fact they went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the ways that had existed for hundreds upon hundreds of years were all but annihilated. So why now... is it totally unacceptable for people to immigrate here without following the rules???

What kind of society are we trying to create? One rooted in exclusion, punishment, and fear, or inclusion, understanding and civic cohesion?

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Fond Farewell

It is with great sadness that I watch the mighty ship OBG sail off into the sunset.  I intend to post what I would have posted @ OBG each month to this space.  What I've learned is that you are lifted up by the company you keep when you are all making a joyful racket together.  I don't use the word racket in a pejorative sense... oh no... I believe it is the rabel rousers, the squeaky wheels, the racket makers that pave the way for change.  I believe it is that cohort of folks that hold up the mirror and make us look at who we are as a society.  It is up to each individual to look into that mirror honestly and move forward and BE the people that are the peacemakers, and agents of change.  So here's to my Sisters and Brothers on the writing team @ OBG, here's to the Editors who kept it rolling and herded the cats, and here's to the readers... who gave us purpose!