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"