My parents are 80 years old. My Mom had her birthday last month and my Dad is this spring. It is becoming more and more apparent I won’t have them around forever and so the time I spend with them becomes precious.
My blogging buddy Andra Watkins speaks about the importance of making memories. She walked the Natchez Trace with her Dad, and then wrote a book about her experience: Not Without My Father. She’s got a twitter feed at #makeamemory where people share their stories.
When we asked my Mom what she wanted for her 80th birthday she said she wanted to go out with just her girls. This isn’t as simple as it sounds. There are schedules to shuffle, kids to arrange for, and some history of unpleasantness between us. But it’s what she wanted, so I got on the phone.
We kept it a secret until Mom’s actual birthday. Then my middle sister (the one who lives closest) gave her a card with an “invitation” inside. Lunch with your daughters, January 2nd. She was SO excited! We didn’t “do Christmas” until just this past weekend so it was nice for her to have something to carry her through the actual holiday.
Even on the day we had a few minor scheduling issues. I volunteered to pick up my little sister and forgot she’s outside of the GPS maps so we were a little late arriving. My middle sister was babysitting and needed to drop off her Grandson “on the way”. She was driving Mom, who also wanted to stop and pick up a few groceries.
In the end we all made it to lunch. The waitress snapped a photo to prove it. It was a pleasant leisurely afternoon. We sat and ate and chit-chatted about nothing important. We kept it all light and friendly.
My Mom was thrilled. She still talks about how wonderful it was for us to do that for her. She says finally, for the first time in her life, she got exactly what she wanted for her birthday. We made her a memory.
For me, it’s not the lunch that’s the memory. It’s being able to make my Mother so happy, with such a simple thing. Aging is hard for her. She struggles to continue to be relevant, to be heard, to participate and she does better than she thinks. But this day, for her birthday lunch, she could be the center of attention, “the Mom”, and not have to work at all.
The latest Anthology has been released!
The Pagan Leadership Anthology edited by Shauna Aura Knight and Taylor Ellwood published by Immanion Press.
This book is filled with essays written by authors from the Pagan community. Many of them I know and respect both as writers and leaders.
This may seem like a “niche” market book, but I think it has a lot to offer outside the Pagan community as well.
The leadership models in Paganism tend to be more collaborative than hierarchical. The community as a whole is already “outside the norm” and so its members are practiced at stepping away from systems they don’t like. We often tease that leading Pagans is like herding cats!
We demand a great deal from our leadership and vote with our feet. Sure there is hierarchy and there are occasionally cults of personality. Sometimes personal issues and interpersonal dynamics interfere with the effectiveness of a leader in a larger group. But these kinds of issues also play out in corporate and other community settings.
I am proud to be a contributor to this anthology. Although the examples are clearly Pagan, the principles are applicable in any leadership situation.
It’s finally starting to feel like winter. We’ve had enough snow to cover the ground and temperatures are falling. In Minnesota we are known for being the “frozen North” but most of December our temperatures remained above freezing. This is nice in theory.
The warmer temperatures did make getting out and about a little easier. Navigating sidewalks wasn’t a problem as there was no build up of snow. On street parking was available and none of the commercial spaces need to use their handicapped parking spots as the “logical” place to pile the snow shoveled off the lot.
On the other hand, there was no White Christmas. The magic of the season, the lights the sounds, are all shifted when there is a crispness in the air and snow on the ground. Instead of clear starry nights we had clouds and sleet. Many people I spoke with were having a hard time finding the spirit of the season, and I blame that on the weather.
The snow cover protects our plants in the frigid cold that January often brings. Because most of our precipitation has been rain, that snowy blanket isn’t as effective. We can hope that we will continue to remain warmer this season, but there is a difference between climate and weather.
The climate is shifting. The lines for gardening zones have moved quite notably in my lifetime. But in any given year we can see any kind of weather. I complain that the forecasts often compare our temperatures to the “average”. Here that is meaningless.
When temperatures on any given day from the highest high to the lowest low range anywhere from 40-80 degrees what’s 5 or 10 degrees above or below “average”? I suspect there are days when the “average” high or low is a temperature than doesn’t exist in the historical listing for highs and lows on those days.
January often sees days below zero. It is not uncommon to see weeks where temperatures never rise above zero. We’ve had three-week stretches of unrelenting, bone chilling weather. Finally we’ve dropped the temperature to a point where maybe we can remember what winter is really like.
I’m not the only one blogging about the weather this week. If you want a warmer POV check out Monica’s Tangled Web.
The holidays are over, at least for most of us, and it’s time to get back to the daily grind. I suppose those New Year’s Resolutions are supposed to help with that. All those good intentions with the opportunity to put them into play. I don’t bother with them anymore. They seem to just lead to great disappointment when, by February, I’ve forgotten them completely.
There are still leftovers in the fridge. The last of the sweets are around the house. The decorations get packed up this coming weekend. It’s cold, and dark, and a little bit sad to see all the sparkle go away. Resolutions don’t do it for me, but this is the time of year when I lean heavily on Daily
Daily Practice can mean a lot of things. A diet requires daily practice, as does an exercise program (or physical therapy). Most spiritual systems encourage some sort of daily practice. Writing, learning a new language, honing a skill all good candidates for daily practice. And I’ve done them all, at least for a while.
When it’s dark, and a little depressing I use daily practice to “prime the pump”. I find some very small thing that’s easy to do, even if I have to quick do it before I go to bed because I’ve forgotten or put it off all day. Then I just commit to doing it.
Lately my daily practice has been making the bed. This is not a hardship. I have a duvet (and right now an extra blanket/bedspread). There are no hospital corners involved. All it takes is a quick tidy. I can do it in less than a minute. There is no excuse not to make my bed. I just never did it before.
This one small thing doesn’t seem like a spiritual practice. It doesn’t look like much of anything, but it makes a huge difference in my day. Every time I walk into my room and see my bed made it makes me smile. It makes me feel special, like I care about myself. It makes me want to be better at all the other things that need doing.
It does exactly what I’m looking for from Daily Practice at this time of year. It gets me started on the right foot. It sets me up for a productive day. It primes the pump.
Today is the day. Let us join together in ceremony and prayer. Let us do our cleansing and find our space on this Sacred Earth. Let us light our fires and make our offerings. Let us sing our songs, dance our dances, drum our drums and open our hearts. Let us Honor those who died at Wounded Knee, naming the names. Let us find connection with All Our Relations. Let us embrace those who have gone before us. Let us find compassion and healing as we move forward in a Sacred Way. Let us make a better place for our descendants.
Thank you for participating.
Please share these posts and encourage people to join us in ceremony, in ritual, in prayer on Tuesday December 29th, the 125th anniversary of the Massacre at Wounded Knee, at Noon in your own time zone.
Meditation on the prayer of “All My Relations”: The Native Americans pray “All My Relations”. This is a statement of humility, connection, and compassion. It is an acknowledgment of the Ancestors and a recognition of the Descendants. In doing this working, in joining the global prayer, in “Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity” we come to a closer understanding of what this prayer “All My Relations” really means.
That All My Relations is a statement of connection seems self-evident. But it doesn’t just honor or acknowledge relatives of bloodline. It calls to a connection with the whole tribe, the community. It makes it possible for us to connect, in an interfaith community, praying to heal our multi-generational wounds. It touches ancestors of the blood, ancestors of the heart and ancestors of the spirit.
It is also a statement of connection to those ancestors that are very different from us. It is a connection to our ancestors on BOTH sides of this massacre, and of any conflict. It is a connection to people we may not understand or approve of, but who are indeed our relations. It is a connection across race, or species because the bear people are our relations, the wolf people are our relations, the bird people, the fish people. The tree people are our relations. The stone people are our relations. The earth we dwell upon is mother to us all and we are all her people. All My Relations.
All My Relations is a statement of humility, because it recognized our human inability to determine the best possible outcome for all. We’re not even good at always finding the best possible outcome for ourselves! How could we know what would best serve the memories of our Ancestors and honor their work? How could we know what will best serve our Descendants? How can we know what the best possible outcome will be for the Animal people? The Plant people? The Stone people? The Earth? So we prayer to the good of All My Relations in humility for our own limited vision.
All My Relations is a statement of compassion. Every religion has some version of “do unto others” or “what goes around comes around”. Acknowledging a direct connection to the harm and benefit our actions cause shifts our awareness of the impact of those actions. When we harm our relations, we harm ourselves. When we damage our lineage, we damage ourselves.
The other side of that is that we recognize our capacity to stand where our misguided, confused, fearful Relations stand and make their mistakes. All My Relations includes both sides of the argument. All My Relations includes those who lash out in fear and anger. All My Relations includes those whose actions aim only to benefit themselves.
To truly heal our multi-generational traumas we must be willing to take in compassion All Our Relations. We must be willing to honor and acknowledge the fear, the hurt, the loss, the pain, the greed, the anger, the jealously, the hopelessness and meet those feelings with love. One hour of prayer, one anniversary of recognition is only the beginning of this work.
The invitation we were issued at the Parliament of World Religions also calls for us to move forward in a Sacred Way. That is the true working, for All My Relations.
I really hope you are all sharing these posts. It would be great to share in “Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity” on December 29th and Noon. The more the merrier in this kind of global interfaith work.
In my last post I talked about cleansing and creating a sacred space. In this one I’m going to talk about prayer, or ritual, or the working.
Transformation: Fire is transformative, and since we are looking to transform from the 125th anniversary of a horror to a world where those things don’t happen fire seems like a good focus.
Depending on your circumstances, lighting a fire might not be easy or practical. I have a fireplace, but even a candle will work. If you’ve chosen to take time out on your lunch hour visualizing a fire can be effective. There are Kundalini Yoga techniques that build internal fire energy.
However you choose to create fire, remember that this particular fire is sacred. It is symbolic of the divine energy we are calling upon to manifest this transformation. There is a Buddhist philosophy that says the first step to changing the world is changing yourself. In doing this work the hope is we will transform our own understanding of our relationship to these events and carry that change out into the world.
Offerings: The other nice thing about fire is that it will accept offerings. We can offer up gifts, like additional candles or our incense or smudge sticks, in thanksgiving. Expressing gratitude for the help fire gives us in transforming is very appropriate.
We can also offer our own emotions to the fire. This can be especially useful if you can not work with an actual flame. Sitting in meditation with the reality of our history can raise up powerful feelings. Allowing ourselves to experience those feelings fully, and then give them over to the flame is a very transformative process.
One thing I will encourage you to offer up is the names of those who died 125 years ago at Wounded Knee. The fact is that we don’t have names for even the majority of those who were killed. That is part of the great wound that needs healing. But the names we do know deserve to be honored. Here is a link
There are other things that can be offered as part of this working, part of this prayer. Drumming would be appropriate as would singing and dancing. As this is an interfaith working bringing something to offer from your own faith tradition is very appropriate. Or you could simply allow yourself to be present in the moment and trust that your body, your heart will know what to do.
It is very difficult for white Americans to sing or dance or move directly from our spirit. We tend to edit ourselves. We wonder, “How do I look?” We wonder, “How do I sound?” We ask ourselves, “Am I doing it right?” But if we can find a way through to that child-like trust, If we can truly let go and allow spirit to move through us, that is also a very transformative act.
Two more days, and hopefully two more posts.
No, this post isn’t about the “Incident at Wounded Knee”, although part of the reason that had so much impact is because of the history of the Massacre taking place on the same land. This is a posting for those who are interested in joining us in prayer and healing for those who were chased down, and shot down, and buried in the mass grave at Wounded Knee.
Praying, to my mind, is a very personal thing. Approaching the Divine sincerely is not something anyone can tell you how to do it “right”. However, for an event like this I’m happy to offer some suggestions of things you might want to try.
Cleansing: Many rituals and acts of prayer start with some form of cleansing. This can be anything from a full ritual bath to an energetic cleansing like grounding and centering. In many Native American practices cleansing is done with smoke, or smudging. Commonly smudge sticks are made with sage or sweetgrass.
The cleansing practice can be constructed as a small prayer in and of itself. The water, or smoke can be blessed. Prayers can be made about being prepared – appropriate and able (I hate the notion of worthy) – to do the work at hand. Any “excess” can be returned to the earth for recycling and renewal.
For this particular work I’m using this prayer for cleansing:
Blessed be my mind and heart
Let me be open to the struggle, the pain, and the heartbreak of what has been lost
Let me be honest about my participation in a culture that would allow, condone, and reward persecution of people already pushed out of their homes
Let me be compassionate to the fear, on both sides, that caused the shooting to start and to continue until the dead littered the ground
Let me be open, honest, and compassionate
May my heart and mind be blessed.
Creating Sacred Space: There is no need to do this work in a separated space. To the Native Americans every place you stand on this planet is sacred. But many of us appreciate a small act to acknowledge that sacred work is distinct from our mundane lives. Some of us need a special space so that we know to avoid distractions. Because this is a prayer, not just for Wounded Knee, but for all those massacred in similar situations it seems to me that the most appropriate way to create sacred space is to acknowledge the 4 directions.
North, East, South, and West are the compass points that cartographers have used for ages to define the land. Many of us have associations with those directions, as do the Native tribes. However, those associations are not universal.
Where I live, and in my spiritual tradition, North is associated with winter, darkness, silence, and wisdom. If I lived in Argentina North might be associated with warmth and growth. In my spiritual tradition West is associated with water, compassion, sunset, and healing. The sunset in the West is globally true, but it’s hard to associate West with water if you live with the ocean only a short trip to the East.
In religions where the spiritual center is a geographic point, like Mecca, where you stand in relation to that point impacts your association with the directions. Even where we stand relative to Wounded Knee, South Dakota, may impact how we establish this space.
So I leave the specifics up to you. Establish the sacredness of where you stand by recognizing where you are in the world at this moment. Honor what is in each of the 4 directions. Honor the sacredness of the Earth upon which you stand.
More to come…………….
Wounded Knee means many things to many people. Then there are those who’ve never heard of the place. American history is taught with a carefully edited eye to the white mans point of view. But to most of the Native people of this continent Wounded Knee stands as a tipping point. It is the Ferguson of the era of conquest and oppression of the indigenous people of this land.
This year, on December 29th, is the 125th anniversary of the massacre at Wounded Knee. It is a massacre that took place because the white army perceived the natives as dangerous and unruly. It took place because there was no understanding or appreciation of different points of view, different religious practices. It took place because a failure to communicate lead to a “need” to control, to take away human and civil liberties, and to respond with brute force to a perceived threat.
There are many tellings of what happened at Wounded Knee. I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee back in 1974. On line there are several accounts eye witnesses, official reports, and of course wikipedia. All the versions agree that the natives were practicing their religion illegally. (The practice of the Ghost Dance was banned) They all agree that hundreds of men, women and children were killed. They don’t all agree on why.
The massacre at Wounded Knee is a living injury in the hearts of the Native people. These are their ancestors, and they are honored with dance, and song and story, and a reenactment of the ride to escape the soldiers.
When I was at the Parliament of World Religions I attended several seminars led by Chief Arvol Looking Horse. He is one of the spiritual leaders of the ride. This year, on this anniversary, he called on us a spiritual leaders to join together and help heal the hearts of those massacred unjustly. He asked us to pray not only for Wounded Knee, but for all those killed in massacres because they are perceived as “other” or “threatening” simply for trying to make their way in the world.
So I created a Facebook event and will write on and off for the next week about things we can do. Let us join together, in spirit, in ritual, in prayer. The Natives pray “all my relations” and recognize that we are all related, we are all one. These are our relatives, our ancestors who have died at Wounded Knee, in Boznia, at Tiananmen Square, in Rwanda, in Syria. These are our relations killed in the Holocaust, in the streets and prisons of the USA, in the Ukraine.
As Chief Looking Horse invites us, let us stop the massacres, let us heal hearts, let us move forward in a Sacred Way.