I feel moved to make a call to love to the shamanic community and other earnest spiritual seekers in every wisdom stream in the face of the recent escalation of the U.S. policy to separate children from immigrants and refugees. It is the least I can do, given that my spiritual practice is based, in part, on the wisdom generously gifted to me by Native Americans of both North and South America–themselves the victims of former and even current policies separating children from their families and people from their lands.
This is not a new message; it is one we have heard from the great spiritual teachers through the ages and more recently in the 20th century by the great peacekeepers M.L. King, Jr., M.K. Gandhi, and by my Native American teacher, Venerable Dhyani Ywahoo. They represent Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Native American traditions.
I was given the advice several months ago to not speak in my blog and email newsletters on “political” issues. However, I do not believe that this is a political issue. It is a human issue: the current leaders of the United States are fostering an environment in which permission is given to openly express and act on racist feelings, to support messages of racial and religious hatred by white supremacists, to condone prejudice and discrimination against LGBTQ and transgendered people, to make explicit and implicit accusations (lies about) of their opponents’ alliance with violent acts and groups, to make voting in this country harder for people of color and those living in poverty, and to take away access to medical care.
I have been thinking more recently as I have nursed my broken heart, “This must be what it felt like to principled Germans who knew moral right from wrong and yet, who were witnesses to the rise of Hitler and Nazism and the enforced removal of Jews into ghettos and eventually into concentration camps.” Or those who witnessed the forced marches of Native Americans across the American continent. Or those in Rwanda and Burundi in the 90s and who were appalled by the carnage, but who themselves had to hide for fear the machete would fall on them.
Oh, the list goes on when we look back at the history of the world. It is not just here–it is in many places.
And yet, when I see this most recent and egregious manifestation of the Will to Dominion and human rights abuses and outright discrimination on U.S. soil, it hits home ever more deeply. It feels like a knife in the heart.
I believe I have a moral obligation as a human being to speak out. These are not political issues; this is about the sanctity of our basic humanity and the commitment we must all make to call for a society of inclusion and compassion. To seek solutions to the pressing problems facing all of us the world over from violence, poverty and oppression.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I have never lived under the illusion that the US is free from racial, cultural and religious prejudice and hatred. Following the example of my parents, I have spent my adult life educating others on the past and present ills of racism in its many manifestations in this country. While I have not overtly done anti-racism and anti-violence education and training since leaving my mainstream academic job in 2007, I still consider my work as a spiritual teacher spreading knowledge of the deep wisdom found in Native American spirituality to be a way to foster interest in the causes of our indigenous brothers and sisters for sovereignty over culture, land, language, and spirit.
In that setting, in my dharma talks, I do not shy away from using the transformational, shamanic map of the Great Medicine Wheel of the New Earth as a way to speak about the collective ills of injustice and the impact of violence on targeted groups. As we walk around the wheel, we encounter:
The truth of things as they are in physical reality (yes, injustice does exist and we are part of the problem) (South)
The source of these problems can be found in the unhealed wounds and shadow dimensions of our consciousness which call for befriending and transformation (West)
The call of the soul to recognize how we are dreaming into being our world–both violent and peaceful–and how to step into the wisdom of elders who look for creative solutions to difficult challenges (North)
To passionately follow the keynote of love and hope as we co-create this world together with spirit (East).
When leading my students around the medicine wheel, I challenge New Age and shamanic pablum that we “create” our own reality as a way to justify–and ignore–the fact of injustice. The shamanic understanding of the web of consciousness, of creation, tells us that we are each impacted by and responsible for the tangled web of current and transgenerational legacies of harm and stepping with full empowerment and focused intention onto the path of peace.
In terms of the evolution of human consciousness, all violence ultimately distorts the authentic expression of mind, heart and body, and stains the human soul. The wounds of slavery on this continent and genocide in the world over millennia on many continents is carried by all of us.
In the absence of healing, cycles of harm continue unabated to affect generation after generation.
My own healing and spiritual path have taught me very viscerally that religion and spirituality are nothing if they only foster myopia and self-absorption. To do so ignores the imperative of all religious and spiritual traditions in their purest form (meaning: not carrying the distortions of culture and society) that to be real human beings, we must face the reality of suffering, as the Buddha did, and then find a way out–for ourselves and the world. As a child raised Episcopalian, Jesus on the cross for me has always represented how we all are victims of the worst of abuses and, as such, how we are called to find ways to transform and heal ourselves and the world as souls and spirit in human form.
The shamanic path shows us that as we heal ourselves of these scars, so we contribute, one small step at a time, to healing the world. We also open our hearts and develop a greater capacity to hold the suffering of the world in our awareness and to stand up courageously against injustice in whatever way feels right to each of us.
To courageously and repeatedly name injustice.
No, this is not a political issue. It is a spiritual and moral one.
So it is that I name a part of my heavy-heartedness about the recent U.S. policy to treat refugees and immigrants like criminals and to separate of children from their parents at the border: the number of people in the United States who actually support this policy. As I was writing this blog, a friend coincidentally sent me a link to a Vox article dated June 22 about this very topic. Author Zach Beauchamp writes: “A majority of Americans oppose it, driven by nearly unanimous opposition among Democrats and strong opposition among independents. But Republicans generally support it by a significant margin.” He then has two graphs showing the figures.
But what I know is that this really isn’t about Republican or Democrat. It’s about the troubling truth that there is a core wound, a split in this world. There are large numbers of people who still believe that might is right, that the means justifies the ends, that there are some people who are less deserving of support, assistance and even life, and that it is imperative, above all, to gain dominion over people, land and resources to the exclusion of others’ well-being.
I know that all of us are scared and confused, mis-informed (lied to), and/or have not had the opportunity to learn any differently. I have been there, too, as have been my ancestors (yes, I have an ancestor who owned slaves). Thus it makes it more imperative to say over and over again:
If you are a shamanic practitioner or follow any of the multitude of spiritual teachings in the world, then you must answer the call of love. Love does not tear children from the arms of their mothers. Love does not seek to alienate and destroy others based on what they look like, what country or culture they come from, what religion (or lack thereof) they follow, whom they wish to have sex with, what gender they know they are, nor what beliefs they hold. Love does not condone the theft of others’ land and homes, access to clean water and air, and the ability to find safety from violence and harm of all kinds. Love does not oppress. Love does not starve, nor kill others.
Love recognizes the innate truth that we are are interconnected in both our problems and our triumphs. For example, most blatantly in the present time, the violence and economic challenges of Central and South America, of the Middle East, of Africa–were co-created in large part by the Western world, as well as by their so-called “enemies,” those other “super powers,” China and Russia.
So it is that we have a responsibility to help those in need from those areas of the world.
This is not going to be easy. The challenges are great. Nevertheless, love demands that we seek solutions to human problems through respect, collaboration and open-mindedness. We must also seek pathways for forgiveness and reconciliation. We must create pathways for learning a different way than fear and divisiveness, shaming and blaming. We must create cross-cultural and inter-religious conversations about how to heal these deep human wounds, to end the pain.
This means, as well, for my country, that when refugees and immigrants knock on our door, we have a moral obligation to open that door and to help them find solutions for their lives and the countries they come from.
Lastly, we have a moral obligation, based in love, to look deep within to find the seeds of the will to dominion over and violence.
Heal what divides you inside. Heal the world.
And speak out. Genocide, violence and abuse–and the will to dominion which drives them–can only thrive and be alive if we remain silent.