Posts Tagged ‘Indigenous Wisdom’

Mind And Morality: Where Do They Meet? An Essay by Larry Merculieff

I have had a traditional Aleut (Unungan) upbringing in the Bering Sea which guides me in writing
this essay
My people were in the Bering Sea for over 10,000 years, and we are still there.
From an indigenous person’s perspective, I find the question to be critical in terms of the
violence around the world today in all its forms and the continuing decline of life support
systems of Mother Earth. The questions we ask about our plight as human beings are central
to where we go from here. Alaska Native Elders say that we must look at the root causes of
our challenges and not at the symptoms. The root cause of our plight is disconnection from
our hearts—which inform our minds, and our minds then direct what we do.

In today’s society, we are focused on how the brain works and what it produces.
The qualities of mind, according to The Free Dictionary, deal with “thought, perception,
memory and decision.” Merriam-Webster defines mind as “the organized conscious and
unconscious adaptive mental activity of an organism.” If this is the case, where is the heart?
The “heart” I am talking about is the inexplicable aspect of us that is in connection with
the divine and guides us impeccably. “Heart” is the source of correct thinking and being.
Einstein is quoted saying,
“we cannot solve the problem with the same consciousness that created the problem.”
I would argue that the consciousness of the mind, as we define it,
is the consciousness that created all the problems faced by humans today.

When veterans returned from Vietnam, thousands came back with a peculiar disorder that the
doctors had to deal with. It was invisible until they put a name to it:
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The vets took to addictions and other behaviors: drinking alcohol, taking drugs,
watching TV for seventeen hours a day, and even isolating themselves in the wilderness or in other ways.
Most of these veterans had depression. They used these coping behaviors to try to escape from their
reality of remembering the horrors of war. To escape required detaching from the present moment
because it was too painful. One definition of an addiction is a strategy to escape the present moment.
These veterans used this strategy to detach, as much as possible, from the heart.
Native Elders say that this is like creating a big stomach that is always hungry and is never filled;
the result is addictions.
The Elders also say that when we swallow feelings we create a stagnant pool inside ourselves
and these stagnant pools create depression. The addictive behaviors were passed along from generation
to generation for coping with anything that hurt one’s spirit, and these behaviors remain with us today.
The addictions, one can argue, are society-wide wherever we take without thought to the consequences
and do harm to others and to Mother Earth.

Prior to the “beginning of time,” all people had an internal guide for how to behave and how to think.
Time began when we focused on guilt, shame, remorse, anger, rage, jealousy, and like feelings; or fear,
which is a projection into the future of something that has not happened yet.
Time began when we focused anywhere except the present moment where the “heart” can be found.
Instead, we simply replaced the present with feelings of the past or future, and so we live there today.
Someone once said, “God can be found in the silence between one’s thoughts” and,
according the Depak Chopra, “the point of power is in the present moment.”
Native Americans say that one who lives in the present moment
is the “real human being”: one who is whole, who knows their place in the world.
In the names they gave themselves as a people and cultures, Alaska Native peoples call themselves
the “human being” or the “real human being.” They understand that human laws and the study of morality
are creations of those who live outside of the present, necessitating that these things be memorialized
and made into laws and fields of study because they have forgotten how to be integrated into life as
real human beings. In the time before time began, we never had prisons. Why? We never had to deal with
human-caused things like warfare, felony, and climate change—the destruction of the life support systems
of the planet.
Why? We never invented the term “sustainability” as a concept to guide how we interact with the earth.
Why? Simply put, the Indigenous Elders say these society-wide struggles stem from a memory lapse:
we have forgotten how to be “real human beings” guided by divinely-inspired laws for living.

We need to listen to these Elders who know. They say that “nothing is created outside [of us]
until it is created inside first.” We are in conflict outside because we are in conflict inside.
We judge others because we judge ourselves first. We criticize and find fault in others because
we are finding fault inside of ourselves first. And we trash the environment outside because
we trash the environment inside. As long as this kind of consciousness exists,
we will never create anything truly new, inside or out.

So, where do the mind and morality meet? The answer is the heart, which directs our individual thoughts,
feelings, and actions if we have the “ears” to listen to what it is saying in any given circumstance.
It is the only aspect of us that guides without doubt or hesitation, and it guides us perfectly.
How do we get back to being heart-guided people? The Elders say that the model for our cultures
should be a two-year-old child. The two-year-old cries when she feels like crying; she laughs in the moment.
When she is angry, she deals with it in the moment, and then she is fine.
Two-year-olds are masters of moving energy.
We need to remember how to move energy to be real human beings’.

Quoted  from Humans And Nature http://www.humansandnature.org/

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Making Friends With The River by Bruce Garrard

The Black Line Initiative has arisen as a result of the film ‘Aluna‘ and interest raised in the Kogi people of northern Colombia.
The (much delayed) general release of the film towards the end of last year coincided with two significant things. One was a series of dramatic events – including a massive and lethal thunderstorm – in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, where the Kogi live; this has convinced them that they need to be proactive in working with ‘little brother’, the people of the modern world, in making efforts to turn back the tide of ecological destruction that is now threatening life on our planet. The other was that the film’s producer, Alan Ereira, found himself inundated with messages from people all over the world saying ‘great film, but what can we actually do?’

The result is the Black Line Initiative, which is just beginning to take shape. In Kogi terminology the ‘Black Line’ is the connection between everything, both physical and spiritual, and in this particular context the link between people all over the world who are committed – within the context of their own local environment – to being part of making the necessary global change. The Kogi are preparing to give direct support to people working in their own localities around the world. This initiative, inspired by the thinking and actions of the Kogi themselves as indigenous people, is different from what we would think of as a ‘political movement.’ The Kogis’ exhortation to ‘make friends with your local river, forest, mountain, desert …’ directly addresses the key problem of modern peoples’ disconnection from the natural world – physical, emotional and psychological. The Kogi are particularly concerned that we should look after our rivers. All this has arrived just as my own project with the River Brue is picking up momentum. I have compiled a history of the river over the winter, and I am planning a five-day walk from the source of the River Brue to the mouth of the River Axe over midsummer in June.

Back in the 1980s, the Kogi had appeared in Alan Ereira’s film ‘Message from the Heart of the World’, to say that the way we treat the planet has to change otherwise it will not survive, and neither will we. The only rational, intelligent thing would be to do as they suggested. At that time, as many people were pointing out, humanity was at a cross-roads; we could go this way, and sort out the mess, or that way, where the consequences would be unthinkable; and we were bound to make the right decision, we are such an intelligent species. But we didn’t go this way, and neither did we think about the consequences of going that way. We sleep-walked towards the abyss. Another quarter century of environmental destruction ensued. The Kogi called back Alan Ereira and made another film: ‘Aluna.’

So, back then it was urgent; now, it is beyond urgency. Perhaps it’s too late. What can we do? What’s the point? But there were the Kogi; they’d called back Alan Ereira to make another film, to re-state their message in a new way – and, in spite of everything, they clearly weren’t giving up. An important part of this message, I had heard, was that we have to look after our rivers. I went to see the film in a crowded café in Glastonbury; and in the mean time I had been thinking about my local river, the River Brue. In the middle ages it had been diverted and the source cut off from the mouth of the river; once it had joined the River Axe and the two had continued to the sea as one substantial stream, though not many people know that now. ‘Aluna’ woke up a feeling that they must be joined back together, at least in a spiritual sense, this connection must be re-made; and people must know. By the end of the film I knew what I had to do: I must go to the mouth of the River Axe and find something, whatever it might be, to take to the source of the River Brue, as an offering. It seemed like a mad idea, but the sense of needing to do this, that this was absolutely the right thing for me to do, was very strong. All of a sudden I was on a mission.

The mission was inspired by the Kogi and their film ‘Aluna;’ it was given shape by the Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee and his ‘four point plan.’ Llewellyn has written a lot about what he calls ‘spiritual ecology,’ pointing out the growing crisis that is overtaking the natural world is also a spiritual crisis, that arises from our culture’s materialism and disconnection from any spiritual reality. His message, certainly as it relates to the natural world, is much the same as the Kogis’. Those who have taken note have asked him, ‘What can we do?’ At first he would simply say that it was not for him to tell people what they should do; they should look within and follow their own guidance. But one day in what he described as a moment of inspiration he came up with a ‘four point plan’ for how we can creatively approach this situation on the material level as well as the spiritual.

The four points are: witnessing, grieving, prayer, and action. The first point, witnessing, is actually asking us to stop habitually trying to ‘do’ anything at all. To witness, with awareness, what we and our culture have done to the world. To look for no outcome, no result; to refrain from trying to fix things, but to thoroughly acknowledge how things really are. The second point, grieving, is to allow ourselves to fully feel the pain arising from that witnessing, that understanding of what we as a species have done. This is the honest and appropriate emotion that we must feel, and in a strange sense – in the situation we are in – the greatest gift that we can give to the world. For those of us who are products of white, middle class, English culture, trained through our up-bringing to keep it under wraps, this will not be easy. Praying, even more so. I do not understand or relish the idea of an act of prayer. It is embarrassing. But I am beginning to suspect that the world situation is by now beyond what we little humans can figure out and put to rights ourselves. We, after all, are the problem; not the rest of the world. Perhaps our best hope is some form of divine intervention. Llewellyn tells us that prayer, as a cry from the heart, arises naturally from our feelings of grief. All I can say for now is that I am prepared to go there and find out. And finally, action. Once we have re-oriented our minds through the practices of the first three points, and not until then, not until we can think in a genuinely different way about the task at hand; then we will know what to do.

So far I have made what I think is a good start on the witnessing, and I have been doing this in two inter-connected ways. First, by walking along the river, getting to know it, making friends with it. One friend took me kayaking on the river; another encourages me to go swimming in the river with him. Gradually I am building up an intimate knowledge of the river, what it looks like, what it feels like, the shape of the land through which it flows. The other is by reading about the river and subjects related to it; its history and natural history. I am compiling the river’s story, and it is very interesting. It is a story that mirrors the story of the world.

The River Brue is a disconnected river. Quite literally: the medieval monks effectively cut it in half. And the disconnection is metaphorical too: once the river flowed past the island chapels of saints in a consciously sacred landscape. It was changed from a river to a canal, and finally to a drain, its perceived purpose simply to get rid of the water. In times of flood, water can be deadly dangerous, but that doesn’t stop it being the stuff of life, the most essential ingredient for all living beings – and also the flow of existence. The Somerset Levels are drying out and the millions of birds that once lived there, or visited on their migrations, are year by year disappearing, dying. The river and its story makes an allegory for the whole of the natural world.

Inspired by the Kogi I went walking along the river, sometimes on my own and sometimes with groups of friends, bit by bit during the summer walking the whole length from above Bruton down to Glastonbury, then across the moors where only remnants and ditches remain to show where the river once flowed, into the Cheddar valley and along the River Axe. Finally I visited the mouth of the Axe at Uphill near to Brean Down, where I collected a handful of beautiful sea shells tinted in a variety of pastel colours. I took them to the source of the River Brue, where there is a little stone structure like a miniature shrine to the river goddess, and I gave these sea shells to the water as the offering that I had intended, what the Kogi would call a ‘payment.’ I cannot explain quite how or exactly why, but the result was extraordinarily profound. Somehow, in my mind, in ‘Aluna’ perhaps, I was making a first step towards healing that disconnection. In the silence that followed the river quietly said that it was pleased.

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Staying Here Now by Larry Merculieff


‘The wisdom keepers say that the only place to find the power of the Creator is to be present in this moment.
If we have fears, we are projecting them into the future. Into a future time that does not even exist.
If we have guilt, we are living in the past, for the past things we did. We are not living now.
All the spiritual keepers, of all groups in the world, be they Buddhists, be they Islamic, be it part Red Pack,
be it medicine pack– you name it– say [that] the only way to find the power that has been given to us from the Creator
is to be here, now. Not to escape.
How do we start this healing? When you are quiet within yourself and you sit next to the river– ask.
Do not be afraid to ask. Ask the Creator. Ask whoever you feel is your higher power,
“Please help me find the way because I do not know how to heal.” “Make me your history.”
And when you ask that, with humility in your heart,
you will get it. You will find it. And it will be given to you,
you will see this healing starting to spread like wild fire. It is just exciting.
Exciting to see. And the key to it is staying here, now.’
Larry Merculieff

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The Voice by Sandra Lee Stillwell

In a dream
I walked amongst the ancestors,
They tended their fires,
played flutes and drums.
and danced as only the elders could.

I watched as an old woman
took ashes from the fire
and spit on them.
Then rolling them
into a ball,
which she tossed
again and again into the air.
With each toss,
the ball changed,
until it was a tiny replica
of our own Earth.
With tears in her eyes,
she handed it to me.

I held it up against the sky,
and was amazed to feel it vibrate.
It was alive!
There were tiny birds in the skies,
the blue rivers and the seas
churned with fish and water creatures,

The land itself was alive
with animals, insects and reptiles,
many of whom have been extinct
for longer that I have lived.
This tiny blue and green Earth was perfect,
unblemished, it was as it had been
when the people themselves
were brand new.

I looked into the old woman’s face
and heard her say.
“Go back now,
be the voice for those
who cannot speak for themselves,
and for the Earth, our Mother.
Hurry child, time passes quickly.”

When I awoke,
I held in my hand a ball,
colored blue and green.
I held that tiny ball
up against the big sky,
and whispered,
“Yes grandmother.
Yes.”

In A Dress Made Of Butterflies   by Sandra Lee Stillwell

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The Plant World: Aboriginal Cosmology

‘In Aboriginal cosmology, the plant world does not descend directly from the Ancestors in the same way humans and animals do.
Plants emerged later, from the potencies deposited during the formation of the earth.
All human and animal species that ever have existed, or ever will exist, on earth have a continuous existence in the Dreaming.
They manifest if their particular plant or other foods are put forth by the nourishing earth mother.
The same view of creation is found in the ancient Indian Vedas:  “A species will come into being only if its food exists.
If the earth provides not its food, the species will exist but remain unmanifest.”
In summary, humans and animals preexist in the Dreamtime as pure animistic energy and emerge simultaneously,
while plants exist first as potencies in the earth during its formation, deposited by these animating forces,
that physically manifest later after the completion of the Dreamtime.
This ancient concept of the relationship between the three kingdoms affords a completely different view of nature
and its recent crisis of species extinction, which is at present occurring at 400 times the natural rate.
The plants of the earth are like Aboriginal message sticks:they call forth from the Dreaming various animal and human species.
These species exist permanently in the Dreaming, but they manifest and disappear in specific combinations during particular
eras as the earth’s plants come forth to call them into existence.’

Voices Of The First Day  Robert Lawlor

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Listening To A Deeper Way, Quotes from Linda Hogan

“Perhaps there are events and things that work as a doorway into a mythical world,
the world of first people, all the way back to the creation of the universe and the small quickenings of earth,
the first stirrings of human beings at the beginnings of time.
Our elders believe this to be so,
that it is possible to wind a way backwards to the start of things,
and in doing so find a form of sacred reason, different from ordinary reason,
that is linked to forces of nature.
In this kind of mind, ike in the feather, is the power of sky and thunder and sun,
and many have had alliances and partnerships with it,
a way of thought older than measured time,
less primitive than the rational present.
Others have tried for centuries to understand the world by science and intellect but have not yet done so,
not yet understood animals, finite earth, or even their own minds and behavior.
The more they seek to learn the world, the closer they come to the spiritual,
the magical origins of creation.

“There is a still place, a gap between the worlds,
spoken by the tribal knowings of thousands of years.
In it are silent flyings that stand aside from human struggles and the designs of our own makings.
At times, when we are silent enough, still enough, we take a step into such mystery,
the place of spirit,and mystery, we must remember, by its very nature does not wish to be known.”

“I am listening to a deeper way.
Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen.
You are the result of the love of thousands.”

“There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks.
Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough,
to pay attention to the story.”

“There are ways in, journeys to the center of life,
through time; through air, matter, dream and thought.
The ways are not always mapped or charted, but sometimes being lost, if there is such a thing,
is the sweetest place to be.
And always, in this search, a person might find that she is already there,
at the center of the world.
It may be a broken world, but it is glorious nonetheless.”

Linda Hogan

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Blackfoot Physics by F.David Peat

“The modern version of The Tao of Physics. . . We gain tantalizing glimpses of an elusive alternative to the thing we know as science. . . . Above all, Peat’s book is an eloquent plea for a fair go for the modes of enquiry of other cultures.” –New Scientist

One summer in the 1980s, theoretical physicist F. David Peat went to a Blackfoot Sun Dance ceremony. Having spent all of his life steeped in and influenced by linear Western science, he was entranced by the Native American worldview and, through dialogue circles between scientists and native elders, he began to explore it in greater depth.

Blackfoot Physics is the account of his discoveries. In an edifying synthesis of anthropology, history, metaphysics, cosmology, and quantum theory, Peat compares the medicines, the myths, the languages the entire perceptions of reality of the Western and indigenous peoples. What becomes apparent is the amazing resemblance between indigenous teachings and some of the insights that are emerging from modern science, a congruence that is as enlightening about the physical universe as it is about the circular evolution of humanity s understanding. Through Peat s insightful observations, he extends our understanding of ourselves, our understanding of the universe, and how the two intersect in a meaningful vision of human life in relation to a greater reality.

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Voices of the First Day: Awakening in the Aboriginal Dreamtime by Robert Lawlor

An Excerpt from Voices of the First Day: Awakening In the Aboriginal Dreamtime by Robert Lawlor

Robert Lawlor explores the rich legacy of Aboriginals to the world. Here is an excerpt on meaning.

“The earth holds an infinite profusion of seeds. Seeds contain forms and worlds yet to germinate; the roots, leaves, and flowers of the entire plant are invisibly enclosed in the seed. Paradoxically, the unborn potential of future life is fused, within a seed, to primordial patterns that were laid down in the very beginning. The seed’s capacity to engender new life seems to derive from the imprint of patterns carried through the ages.

“This image of the earth with its seeds is comparable to Carl Jung’s description of humanity’s collective unconscious: both hold the entire heritage of primal patterns that are continually reborn through nature’s seasons. Like seeds, myths, ideas, and images are dispersed throughout the world on the winds of thought, the waters of emotion, and the fires of passion.

“The Australian Aborigines speak of jiva or guruwari, a ‘seed power’ deposited in the earth. In the Aboriginal world view, every meaningful activity, event, or life process that occurs at a particular place leaves behind a vibrational residue in the earth, as plants leave an image of themselves as seeds. The shape of the land — its mountains, rocks, riverbeds, and waterholes — and its unseen vibrations echo the events that brought that place into creation. Everything in the natural world is a symbolic footprint of the metaphysical beings whose actions created our world. As with a seed, the potency of an earthly location is wedded to the memory of its origin. The Aborigines called this potency the ‘Dreaming’ of’ a place, and this Dreaming constitutes the sacredness of the earth. Only in extraordinary states of consciousness can one be aware of, or attuned to, the inner dreaming of the earth.

Lawlor explains that these people have grounded their culture in remembrance of “the first day” and a myth of creation which has lasted over 150,000 years. The Australian Aborigines are very cognizant of the presence of their “creative ancestors” and their contributions to their tradition. They have rejected many of the values the dominant culture cherishes such as agriculture, architecture, writing, clothing, and the subjugation of animals. Instead of money, the Aborigines cherish kinship, community, and the importance of the law of the Dreamtime. In fact, they  have no concept or word for time or the accumulation of possession.”    Quoted from book review in Sprituality & Practice

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Quote From Dreams Of The First Day by Robert Lawlor

‘Aborigines and indeed any indigenous tribal peoples believe that the spirit of their
consciousness and way of life exists like a seed buried in the Earth. –
Dreams,deep collective memories and imaginings are more potent than religious faith and
scientific theories in lifting us above the catastrophic ending that confronts us all.’

Voices of the First Day: Awakening in the Aboriginal Dreamtime by Robert Lawlor

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Quote From Ring Of Fire By Lawrence Blair

‘Only now when tribal peoples have almost gone has the West
awakened to the fact that rather than lands and possessions it is their subtle abilities
and environmental wisdom forged since the beginning of time which are of paramount importance
to us all.

The new psychologies of hypnotic suggestion and creative
visualization are increasingly aware that we are capably of infinitely more than the assumed
constraints of ‘physical laws’ on our bodies and minds would have us believe.’

Ring of Fire: An Indonesian Odyssey by Lawrence Blair

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