belief

I was enjoying a talk by Bill Donohue. Just love the guy. His passion, his authenticity.

I was listening while driving, and something he said affected me, unexpectedly, kind of a Zen slap. (I’ll share the transcript below for context).

What happened was, I had an unexpected realization about how I’ve always believed something that is totally untrue. Just a man-made concept. Nothing to do with Reality as it actually is. And how this belief has affected my entire life (and continues to do so).

It was the simple realization that the 7 days of the week are entirely a made up idea based on an ancient understanding and a collectively consciously agreed upon “fact.” This blew my mind in the instant that I heard Bill talk about it.

Sounds stupid, I know. But as soon as the words came out of his mouth, it hit me as if I saw that moment in an entirely new light. Like a giant weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Like I could really be FREE and actually LIVE in each moment – because that’s the ONLY thing that really exists.

One never knows the time or the place when that little opening of enlightenment will allow you to see everything new again.

I’m grateful to have had many such openings in my lifetime, and each one brings me a little closer to joy, to grace, to realization, to truth, to love.

Thank you, Bill Donohue.

895 Ascension of Buddha, Bill Donahue: (excerpt)

(28:21): “The number 7 means divine intervention

It’s kind of the biblical lucky number because they only knew of 7 planets at that time

That’s why you have 7 days of the week

If they knew we had two other planets out there you’d have 9 days of the week.

All of your weekdays are named after the constellations.

That’s why you have 12 months of the year because of the 12 signs of the zodiac.

The whole thing’s astrology, how can you get away from it?

What are you going to have 13 months of the year?

The first page of the bible, it talks about the stars in the sky:

And let them be for signs and for seasons …..

Well then if it says the stars are for signs, Wouldn’t you think you should find out what the stars mean?”

what is truth?

This memory I’m about to share probably occurred about 51-53 years ago.

As a 6 to 8-year-old girl I would often watch the black and white TV set with Mom.

There was a movie, a Nazi story. I have no recall what movie it was.

I’ll set the scene as I remember it:

Nazi soldiers are looking for escaped prisoners in a convent. The nuns had hidden a bunch of folks somewhere within the convent property. A soldier is interrogating one of the nuns.

He begins to yell at her, and he slaps her really hard across the face with his hand.

I BURST INTO TEARS.

Now, as a child of this age I had a very cozy, middle income kind of cultural upbringing. There was no trauma, abuse, or anything that I could have identified with at that time that would have reactivated such a harsh emotional reaction to this (subtle, by today’s standards) act of violence.  I was sobbing. Holding back the uncontrollable emotion and tears as much as I could, but I was unable to continue watching the movie. I remember that Mom consoled me.

If Mom were still here, I’d ask her if she had any recollection of the incident. But mom passed last year and she had dementia. So her memory wouldn’t have been very helpful.

Why did that particular incident bring up so much agony and despair for me at that age?

Thinking about this today, it leads me to contemplate:

  • Is our consciousness REALLY inside our brain?
  • Is our consciousness more accurately outside of our brain which would allow access to more than this dimension, this realm, this lifetime, this world?
  • When we’re children, just prior to the unavoidable fact of cultural indoctrination, aren’t we more deeply connected to the reality of our True Conscious Being?

Here’s another childhood memory. About 49-50 years ago, I had an experience while walking home from the school bus up. I’d walk up the hill on Johanna Lane every day, but on this day I had a very sudden moment’s awareness. It was a cognitive sense of being AWARE of more than my little persona, a KNOWING that I WAS ACTUALLY AWARE of MY OWN AWARENESS. How could a 10-year-old process that? I didn’t. I simply remember a feeling as if I had something inside that was more than I could understand. And I liked the feeling. I had something special inside. I became aware of awareness itself just by being quiet, watching my feet take each single step by step along the road’s dark, wet, leafy pavement (it was Fall), and like a Zen meditation, IT appeared, it showed ITSELF, unexpectedly. I received a GIFT.

I would love to hear of any childhood experiences that any readers may have had which reveals a moments’ access to a more open truth of conscious awareness. Please do share ……

I’ll end with a beautiful piece about Truth from one of my favorite Zen masters:  

Most people think that they are basically truthful

But when you look at it for a given day,

How do I embody the truth of being?

Well, you start by telling the truth all the time,

Okay great,

What is the truth then?

What seems to be true for you?

You could look at it as being totally honest all the time

Never deceptive

Never deceiving

Not twisting the sentence where you’re not being completely honest

When you really look at this, even for a single day, you will probably be surprised, maybe even shocked by how often you find yourself shading truths, whether out of fear or out of subtle or overt deception (because you have a fear of being real, being exposed)

There’s hundreds of reason why you might not tell the truth

What is truth then?

It’s not just mere opinion.

It is not unloading your judgements on somebody.

That’s not telling the truth.

It’s more about being deeply and precisely honest, and being very open to having your truth change.

Someone else may inform you. It might alter what’s true for you.

As human beings we clutch on to what we think is true, and when we do state it we state it with a fair amount of defensiveness. So we’re often in a kind of competition, even in the most seemingly casual conversation. You will often notice a quiet, well cultured competition of ideas going on, or just a complete lack of listening. In the average conversation, usually each person is waiting for a gap to jump in and say what they want. This is common in conversation. In a truth sense, conversation is listening to what might be true in any situation. Unless you listen, you’re not going to get anywhere.

No this is not very esoteric, but it’s demanding, it’s real, kind of where the rubber hits the road.

We never like to admit to ourselves when we’re lying. We think we’re doing it for their sake.

If you have a little sensitivity, you can say something truthful or honest without being so overt.

If you want to really start to embody some of your deepest realizations of being, start by telling the truth all the time.

Will there be consequences?  Yes.

How am I delivering the truth? Am I saying what’s really true? Or am I insisting on the truth?

If you get lots of negative feedback on your truth telling, examine how am I delivering this truth, how insistent am I, or am I very simply being honest and real?

One of the ways human beings manipulate each other is by shading the truth.

It’s hard to manipulate somebody when you’re totally honest.

This practice of truth will transform your life. You can’t say how, until you do it.

You can’t control how it will work out.

How could you possibly embody the enlightened condition and be anything less than truthful?

Your experience of being tends to become richer, deeper, more profound, more connected with your human relative life. That inner private space of being and outer human existence are no longer felt as two things, that illusion that there are two things. It’s actually ONE thing.

The more truthful you are, the deeper your sense of connection becomes. That exquisite feeling of spontaneous balanced flow feeling, all of you together, your internal division has come together. If you want to be divided, tell lies. You will feel conflicted inside. Sometimes overtly and sometimes very subtle.

Truth is a unifier. It brings the force of your psychology, your emotions together.

When it’s just truth, there’s something inside of you that comes deeply together.

This is not a direct translation of the YouTube recording. It is my paraphrased excerpts from Adyashanti’s talk titled, ‘What is Truth?

the unknown and true healing

Having had so much time for contemplation, under different circumstances than usual (now that I’ve been diagnosed with an “incurable” illness), I am given opportunity realize the power of the unknown.

Now more than ever.

I wonder, do we all get that moment? To realize life’s infinite potential for the unexpected? I suppose I should feel immense gratitude for being given the opportunity to recognize, to revisit, to place all my attention, to value the absolute power of Life (God, Chi, Prana, Source, Brahman, Tao, etc.) and its ability to infinitely Create limitless potentiality.

So I begin to look back at my daily routine, only about 6-8 weeks ago, which would consist of morning breakfast, (after feeding the cats, of course), a lemon squeezed in my water, fresh blueberries and Kefir laced with Chia and flax seeds, along with my toasted slice of Ezekiel bread and a schmear of chunky almond butter. Coffee, of course. AHHH, pure heaven! Breakfast was always my favorite meal of the day. Then my home yoga practice, meditation, daily contemplative reading, stretching, and always a handstand to get the adrenaline flowing. And finally off to teach my yoga classes for the day ……..

I took that simple routine for granted. Not that I didn’t practice gratitude. I certainly did, as this was part of my work as a teacher to live and impart this knowledge. But truthfully, it’s not until one is faced with the reality of losing something that the actuality is available to knowing how valuable that something was. Now its REAL.

Loss, unexpected change, trauma, illness, is always a wake up call. Some may call it fierce grace. Whatever one chooses to call it, it kind of feels like losing your house to a tornado, and some of the neighbors houses are still standing. You wonder, Was there purpose in this for me?

Now, I have been given the opportunity to learn a new routine. I am awakened in the morning by pain, and I reach for the pills at my bedside. Then I hobble to the toilet, cringing at the stabbing, burning pain enveloping my entire right chest and armpit.

I have found that once I get the pain managed with pills, I’m able to conjure up the strength, slowly, to continue that morning routine of cat feeding and my breakfast. Now, I REALLY value this even more because it’s so difficult to achieve.

Then I spend time in contemplative reading, meditation, dream journaling, and admiring the scene of summer’s nature out the window. I know I won’t lose the ability to engage in these practices unless I should lose consciousness, and for that I am so grateful. The pain is less at this point after eating breakfast, although I’m very weak – the chemo has begun to do its job of killing my blood cells. There is no longer any ability to perform a physical yoga practice, unless walking very slowly can be considered my new asana.

There is no more driving. The painful rash and swelling enveloping my chest has created a limited arm movement that makes it unsafe to drive. It’s a loss of independence.

There is no more teaching yoga, floor or aerial, or home practice. It’s like losing a dear friend.

There is no more physical intimacy with my beloved the way it used to be. A reminder, the physical sensation of youth is temporary.

There is no more cleaning and vacuuming, cooking and grocery shopping on my own. Time to let go of control.

I have learned a few things from all of the unexpected loss and change:

I need to take strong pain medicine to have any decent quality of life. I will never harshly judge another who may have abused narcotics. We don’t know the reason for one’s sense of need to manage their pain.

I can only move my body in very slow motion to avoid any sharp pain. This has provided me with a deeper sense of gratitude for practices I’ve learned, such as Tai Chi, that enable slow graceful movements that feel energetically powerful.

I cannot hug anyone or lie on my side or lie prone. It is actually uncomfortable to lie down at all without strong pain medicine. But I do enjoy holding my husband’s hand, squeezing it during my chemo treatments, and looking into his loving eyes.

Of all the seeming loss this inflammatory breast cancer has caused, there is just as much gain in many aspects of new awareness.

As I took a slow walk outside today,

I listened more closely than I have in a long time.

I smelled the summer blossoms and country air.

I felt my emotional body and God’s presence more deeply.

I cherished nature’s beauty more sincerely.

I loved each moment’s opportunity to be a witness to my own awareness.

I forgave myself for all of my mistakes, misunderstandings, and wrong judgements.

I recognized that the potential for true healing has little to do with a physical body and that true healing is a mystery which is unsolvable by a human mind.

I sensed that true healing has infinite possibility to be experienced through the human heart.

now

Oh I’ve had these moments of darkness

then I remember the truth that can’t be expressed

that LIFE is bigger than anything I can see

and somehow, I feel like it’s all okay for a moment

But I will revisit doubt and uncertainty

I question my divine purpose, will I fulfill it?

I ask myself, did I LOVE enough?

Was I honest ….. with others ……. with myself?

When we ask the real questions

Life says,

You are ALIVE in this moment

That’s IT

All you have is this MOMENT to express the life pulsing out of your heart,

to experience the soul’s yearning to LIVE through ONE being

for the sake of every other being

NOW

And don’t fucking wait another moment

oracle

I’ve been using the I Ching along with the Wisdom of the Oracle for many years. I ask a question (even though I recognize that within myself the answer is already there) and then surrender my linear mind’s knowing to allow the deeper Divine Knowing to reveal itself to me.

It is quite miraculous to witness that the answer revealed to me is ALWAYS exactly what I already know, but it’s symbolized and shown to me in a way that is crystal clear for my linear mind to understand.

It always feels most urgent to access spiritual wisdom when life challenges arise and our path is unclear.

At those times, despite my inner knowing that no matter what path I take, it will always be the correct path for me; nevertheless, I find myself wanting to ask the question. Something about the affirmation allows me to feel, ahhh, see, I was right!

Here in northeastern PA, it’s been a long winter. Spring has just revealed its precious light in the last two days, and I am resonating with nature’s calling to be NEW again. With that, comes change, big decisions, deep introspective reassessment of my life.

And so I turn to my beloved Oracle, and I ask the question:

Am I listening to the true voice of my heart?

I shuffle the card deck. I choose the card. The Oracle answers:

Card #21, upside down (a protection message):

CLEAN IT UP!

“Is it possible you may be focusing too much on other people right now?

Trying too hard to be helpful?

Perhaps you think its your calling to relieve people of their burdens, but what is the cost to you, and to them?

Don’t clean up someone else’s side of the street. You’re not helping by freeing him or her of responsibility. You’re also not doing yourself any favors, and you might just be adding an even greater strain.

You are loved as you are. You don’t need to be needed to be loved.”

Whack! Just what I needed to be told, to really hear, to own. I know all this. Yet, its message is one I continue to struggle with.

It says, Janet, you know exactly what you have to do.

wisdom-based culture

Traditional American Indian Leadership

Traditional American Indian leadership displayed several distinct characteristics that developed out of a longstanding history of cultural traditions and values. American Indians lived holistically. They understood themselves to be interconnected with all physical and spiritual forms of life, and they did not compartmentalize their physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual lives. Spirituality was a fundamental cornerstone of American Indian culture, and leadership was one of the ways the culture was sustained and nurtured.

Because spirituality was a core element of American Indian life, all leadership possessed spiritual significance. Strong leaders were those who had a strong spiritual core. Some leaders were elders who, because of their age, possessed knowledge and had earned the respect of the people. Elders had a close relationship with spirituality. Ojibwe elders, for example, had a special kinship with manitous, or spirits, that validated their status as elders and leaders (Johnston, 1982).

Full elder status was earned by those who displayed care for future generations and honored responsibilities of cultural traditions and tribal relations. Elders demonstrated generosity and kindness, and honored all living things including people, plants, animals and the earth. They were deeply respected and valued for the wisdom and experience they accumulated over time. Elders were the source of information for younger generations, and passed on knowledge through oral traditions. American Indians depended on this transfer of knowledge for their cultural survival.

The oral transfer of cultural traditions, spirituality and experience served to protect the existence of the tribe. Oral tradition also provided education and entertainment. Elders shared their knowledge with those who demonstrated respect for the cultural and spiritual traditions. In this way elders cultivated the leadership of future tribal generations. Ojibwe elders, for example, had nightly winter lessons for those considered gifted and caring of the cultural and spiritual heritage. Johnston (1995) tells how Ojibwe “young men and women who were chosen to receive special tutelage would be the learned elders when their time came, accredited to interpret and to adjudicate” (Introductory Pages). Winter lessons were special sessions where tribal customs and traditions were passed on through sacred teachings.

American Indian leaders were humble servants to the community.

Individual American Indians did not seek leadership or promote themselves for it.

Rather, persons with strong traditional values and persons who contributed to the community emerged as leaders. The community recognized and sought leadership from persons perceived as having the knowledge, wisdom, skills and experience to act as a leader for the tribe.

No one person in an American Indian tribe was always a leader, and many were leaders at different times. Leadership was distributed among capable and respected persons. The people chose an individual to lead a particular project which, when concluded, ended his or her leadership. The Ojibwe word for this person was ogimauh, which meant the foremost person for the one project (Johnston, 1995). Dan explains the process of choosing this person:

In the past when we needed a warrior we made a warrior our leader. But when the war was over and we needed a healer to lead us, he became our leader. Or maybe we needed a great speaker or a deep thinker. The warrior knew his time had passed and he didn’t pretend to be our leader beyond the time he was needed. He was proud to serve his people and he knew when it was time to step aside. (Nerburn, 1994, p. 175).
Just as the community recognized leaders it could also cease to recognize leaders. If tribal members did not like or trust the actions of a leader, or if they felt that the leader had violated their trust or acted inappropriately, they simply did not follow him or her.

As Dan states:
When our leaders don’t lead, we walk away from them. When they lead well, we stay with them….A leader is a leader as long as the people believe in him and as long as he is the best person to lead us. You can only lead as long as people will follow (Nerburn, 1994, p. 175).

American Indian leaders never ordered people to do anything because they strictly adhered to the principle that people have a right to self-determination. American Indians believe that people have a right to their own beliefs, and as a sign of respect do not attempt to impose their beliefs on others. According to Good Tracks (1976), in American Indian societies “no interference or meddling of any kind is allowed or tolerated, even when it is to keep the other person from doing something foolish or dangerous” (p. 497).

American Indians led by example rather than by authority or holding power over others.

Only those leaders who had a special bond with the spirits could invoke an imperative command. In this way, American Indian leadership was neither coercive nor hierarchical.

In American Indian culture, all people were treated with respect regardless of their position within the tribe. Certain persons were recognized as having special gifts, but those gifts did not make them “better than” another person. Ironically, Europeans viewed this as a flaw in the system of American Indian life. A French fur-trader who lived with the Ojibwe and Ottawa during the 17th century was shocked to find that “the chiefs who are most influential…are on an equal footing with the poorest, and even with the boys” (Smith, 1979, p. 311).

American Indian respect for all people regardless of their tribal status is derived from their belief in the circle of life and the interconnectedness it represents. Like the circle of life, natural growth and change, the pace of American Indian life was slow, patient, deliberate and unhurried (Johnston, 1982).

American Indian culture distrusted haste and urgency. American Indian leaders, therefore, were patient, and took their time when making a decision. The Ojibwe, for example, often took days, weeks, or even months to contemplate a matter before giving an answer. They always considered it better to take time when making a decision (Johnston, 1982).

Johnston (1982) explains the moral reasons behind this deliberate decision making. He states, “there were many practical reasons for ‘taking time’, but dominating them all was a reverence for ‘the word’. To be asked to make a decision was to be asked to give ‘word’, an awesome request” (p. 80). The ‘word’ was viewed as a final answer or decision. It was an irrevocable pledge, binding upon those who pronounced and agreed to it.

It was for this reason that American Indians believed that keeping one’s word was a measure of integrity.

When making a decision, American Indian leaders carefully considered the welfare of the tribe and future generations and did not make decisions lightly.

When tribal leaders met to make a decision, they would deliberate by pondering the question from many different perspectives. Different points of view were welcomed and respected.

Leaders did not argue for their points of view, and there was no debate. They sought understanding and consensus through mutual inquiry.

They stated their words as new interpretations on the matter and prefaced their remarks with statements such as ‘I have yet another understanding’ and ‘our brother or sister has provided us with an idea’ (Johnston, 1982). Ideas were put forth in this manner until a resolution presented itself to everyone involved. Dan explains: …no real Indian leader would try to speak for everybody before hearing from everybody. He might get the elders together, or the council of chiefs. It depended on the tribe. Then they listened to everyone. Everyone could speak. If someone didn’t like the decision that was made, they could leave. If the chief made a decision enough people disagreed with, they could make another chief (Nerburn, 1994, p. 178). In this way, decisions were the consensus of the tribe and not individual decisions made by any one leader. The process of consensus was central to the way in which decision-making was made and it assured that leadership was authentic to the community.

Only decisions reached by consensus were honored and followed by members of the tribe.

An important part of American Indian culture was the significance of spiritual ceremonies which helped to provide guidance and knowledge in decision-making. Once a decision had been made and agreed upon by the participating parties, there was often a spiritual ceremony to make the decision official. For example, when Ojibwe leaders gave their promise, they lit the sacred pipe. Smoking of the pipe sealed a pact and acknowledged their pledge was not given lightly, but was binding. As Johnston (1982) explains:

The ritual smoking of the pipe was an essential part of every conference, performed before deliberations began in order to induce temperance in speech and wisdom in decision (p. 160).

As with leadership, American Indian tribes also had their own ways of resolving social conflict. American Indian methods of resolving social conflict were based on the concept of restitution instead of retribution. Tribal restitution reconciled the people involved in a conflict and restored respectful relationships. The Supreme Court case, Ex parte Crow Dog (1883), which involved the murder of one American Indian by another, concerned one of the most widely known examples of this process. The interaction between traditional American Indian reconciliation and the U.S. system of retribution exemplified in the case of Ex parte Crow Dog will be discussed in more detail later in this report.

This is a summary description of some of the main characteristics of traditional American Indian leadership. It is not meant to comprehensively describe the leadership of all American Indian nations, although many aspects are inter-tribal in nature. We also emphasize that while we describe traditional American Indian leadership in the past tense, traditional American Indian leadership practices continue to influence American Indian people today.

This Excerpt from:
A report prepared for the American Indian Research and Policy Institute by Tracy Becker, supervised by John Poupart, President of AIRPI. Technical Assistance by Cecilia Martinez, Ph.D. September 1997.
This paper is the result of a collaboration between the American Indian Research and Policy Institute and the Building Communities Across Cultures initiative. Building Communities Across Cultures is an effort, sponsored by the University of Minnesota Extension Service, to support projects developed by American Indian organizations that are addressing current issues of concern.
Special thanks to Brian Klopotek, Jessica Kramer, Tammy Lauer and Carl Johnson for their editorial assistance, and to Dawn Blanchard for her computer expertise.
Copyright © 1997, American Indian Research and Policy Institute. All rights reserved. This document may be reproduced without permission. References must cite the American Indian Research and Policy Institute

photo: Kirby Sattler