Indigenous Wisdom: Healing the Rift (10/8 Vital Conversation)

Join us for a heart-based inquiry into the teachings and the history of indigenous peoples.  Share in  the beauty of ritual, the power of deep wisdom and the dignity of struggle against oppression.


We have three very special conversation starters lined up for our Monday Cafe Call (bios available here):

  • Ernestine Saankalaxt' Hayes
  • Phil Lane Jr.
  • Stephanie Nestlerode

This Cafe Conversation continues our Occupy a New Story collaboration with Jeff Vander Clute and Duane Elgin of New Stories and Great Transition Stories, where this page, offers an introduction to the topic and a number of powerful videos for your exploration.

We are beginning our inquiry here on the Occupy Cafe forum, and then continuing with our regular Monday Cafe Call on 10/8:

Register for our Monday Vital Conversation Cafe Calls
8-10a PDT | 11a-1p EDT | 3-5p GMT

Note: this theme will also inform our Tuesday "Connect2012" and Thursday "Occupy Heart" calls.

We start with the following question:

  • How are indigenous wisdom and history alive for you today?

South Brisbane street art photo courtesy of Leonard John Matthews

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Hitting bottom was one of the themes today as well. And i was also reading a section of Barbara Marx Hubbard's Birth 2012 the other day in which she talks about the work of conscious evolutionaries being to help us to have a "high bottom," which seems like an interesting concept.

Ben, I wonder how personally 'hitting bottom' compares to a group or society 'hitting bottom'.

I think of the mass protest 9/11 on Wall Street as something precluded by a society 'hitting bottom'.  And it seems it isn't the final bottom we'll see.  I'll say that because I'm still suffering (in my own ways) and I perceive many others are suffering in their ways... and systemically the sources of that suffering seem to be worsening... even if the cumulative eye is off the ball.

I'm VERY curious, excited, afraid, exhilarated... and though I 'know' there will be tremendous suffering and atrocity... I'm full of anticipation that compassion becomes driver.  Wondering what that will look and feel like.

Hi Gary!

Great to hear from you (as always). I was checking out your earlier posts on this page and sharing with some friends. I don't know much about the 12-step program but I do agree with your statement that we have not yet "hit bottom" ... or at least, we aren't aware if we have. I was just recently chatting with Katie Teague about this issue. The U.S. went through such an intense economic crises in 2008 and yet the majority of people continue on with their "business as usual" mindsets.

I am also intrigued by your statement that "American will never make amends." I wonder what that means... is that the institutions? This I believe... I don't think that U.S. (and for that matter, most international institutions) are set up to forgive. But what about the U.S. American people ourselves? Can we make amends, are we not the country? I really hear you around this "sustained bender between a determined action to heal and our broken hearts." That resonates. But it seems that there is willingness to be in this paradox, in the swinging pendulum between guilt/dependency and determined action to heal. I guess for me that's why the question of how we move forward and deepen this conversation is so important to me. Complex, difficult, loaded... but essential.

Aerin, as you well know the majority who remain in the business-as-usual mindset are the ones who continue to buy into the primary value of the corporate agenda--perpetual economic growth. We are fed the same BS from both democrats and republicans. Obama buys into it just as much as Romney. The only way they really differ is on the method to attain that growth.

Maybe these comments are getting a little off-topic, but when I say America will never make amends, I refer to the institution of government. And there is much to amend. A reparations for slavery movement was quickly quashed; then of course there is the incalculable damage done to Native Americans, the hundreds of thousands of innocent casualties in Iraq that will never be acknowledged, carpet-bombing and the legacy of agent-orange in Vietnam, the depleted uranium all over Iraq from the Gulf War, the collateral damage of the drone war in Pakistan (who are regarded as combatants if they are males of military age), the citizens used as atomic guinea pigs in the 50's, the Japanese incarcerated during WWII, the tolerance of toxic food, water and air. The list goes on and on and on.

The government cannot ever make true amends for all that without a profound and sustained and authentic change in policies that we must demand. Meanwhile, citizens can indeed make gestures. And the more the better. But without reparations, those gestures are limited and doomed to be inadequate.

We as a nation would have to shed our attitude of entitlement, arrogance, develop a true awareness of how other people live around the world, join the community of nations as an equal, strip away the illusions (as Chris Hedges illustrates so powerfully) of happiness, the illusion of literacy, the illusions of security, the twisted distortions of love and charade of democracy that captivate this nation. A tall order, indeed. Perhaps it begins with deliberate and authentic healing gestures in every possible venue, starting with our own hearts.

Meanwhile, I believe in you and am so grateful for knowing you.

Thank you, Gary, I love, and share your passion for such "truth and reconciliation," as well as your concern that it is appears to be a difficult row to hoe right now.  I'd love to hear more, though, about that last part: "perhaps it begins with deliberate and authentic healing gestures in every possible venue, starting with our own hearts."  What do you see as happening and being possible now in this regard?


Ben, since I was not present for the Monday call, this view may have been expressed already, but I am simply saying that being more deliberate and committed to bringing ceremony and ritual into as many forms and mixtures of social gatherings as possible is what sustains and deepens and permeates the social context with an attitude of reverence and connection to the greater biosphere.

I am not talking about empty gesture or generic spontaneous offerings. I am imagining the infusion of authentic ceremony, or at least hybrids of ritual tested by time or, failing that, offerings that are based on at least some authentic precursors that invoke the sacred dimension. It's certainly no mean feat to come into that capacity for authoritative delivery of such an invocation. But people like Michael Meade or Angeles Arrien come to mind, not to mention any of the indigenous leaders here.

I am also referring to making a clear distinction between spirit and soul. I regard such ceremonies to be grounding in the sense of taking us into our bodies, a momentary descent into and acknowledgment of the soulful dimension, because that is the soil of our biological nature. We have to get down into the soil of ourselves, the indigenous soil/soul of our presence in the web of life if we are to reconnect with it in any meaningful way.

This is spiritual grounding that has little to do with spirit in the sense that we ascend to spirit--we descend into soul. The muddying of this distinction is everywhere in our culture, with millions taking refuge in the spiritual dimension, with so much magical thinking attending to it all, the evangelicals waiting for some external entity to come and save them. There's nothing wrong with acknowledging spirit as a source, but what I think we get from exploration of the soul is a descent into the collective reality as opposed to merely nurturing an individial relationship with a disembodied entity. 

This healing process has nothing to do with shamanism or magic. It is not about ascending to anything. It is more about inscendance, a term Bill Plotkin uses. It is embodiment in the same sense in which Jitendra means it, coming into our body more fully, the body of life, the body of time, the embodied and hence connected self in which our indigenous memory is alive and present.

Hi Gary, everyone...

I've had this conversation open in a tab for the past week... pondering how I might like to respond. I also participated in Jitandra's Occupy Heart call last Thursday with Brother Phil, which I found very, very powerful.

Mostly, I would say we're on the same page. As I mentioned above, I don't think our institutions are set up to forgive. I even question those momentous historical events when there has been "reconciliation" (I'm thinking mostly of South Africa which in my opinion continues to be in a BIG MESS despite their triumphs over apartheid). So I am definitely on board with you around the fact that there is much for the U.S. to amend for. But I, like you, am pretty sure that government is not going to be passing out reparations any day soon. What I'm not sure about is whether or not without reparations our individual actions of forgiveness and healing are "doomed to be inadequate."

I guess the challenge for me around this assertion is that we are basically saying there is no way forward. But I do not believe that. I hold a strong conviction that by building communities that do not hold near and dear these traits of entitlement, arrogance, lack of awareness, etc.; and which espouse different values, that it is possible there will be transformation.

Do I think it will come about as a result only of locally based, small-scale efforts? Absolutely not. Nor will it be the result of only human action. And a big part of it will come about because these institutions that have become so burdensome, so inflexible, such massive, lumbering machines will fail. They will never forgive, nor even admit, what it is that they are truly up to. But it is becoming more and more clear to many of us what it is that drives them, what mindsets serve them and how inconceivable it is that they will continue to exist for too much longer (relatively speaking perhaps...)

So, those are my thoughts this evening. I am also so grateful to be your friend. And you know what? When I first met you via email, I was quite intimidated by you. But once I let go of some false first impressions I was so amazed by your beingness, questions and journey. I am glad that we humans have the capacity to forgive, change, adapt and learn together.



It's been days since you posted this and a response is overdue. Thanks first for your generous personal comments. They are gratefully received. I have high regard for your creative intelligence, leadership, commitment and the way you show up with a warrior's heart.

Your comments remind me of the soul-searching and wrenching journey that Germany has been on for 65 years. To do that kind of shadow work as a nation surely has not been easy or fun. To imagine this country doing anything of that magnitude is frankly a foreign concept. Not that it couldn't. Just can't imagine what kind of episode could trigger such a thing....except maybe environmental/financial collapse. And even then, many would be looking every place else for answers except in their own hearts.

So the task of doing that shadow work becomes, as you suggest, our ad hoc responsibility, in whatever ways we can and to the most beneficial effect. It takes generations. And we don't have a moment to lose.

Blessings and love,


Thank you Jerry.  I'm so glad this was a great experience for you.  I love the image of little Jerry "just feeling protected and safe there by the trunk of the mother tree." And as you say, "we have all been conquered."  Indeed, are we not all, to one degree or another, slaves to this insane global economy of exponentially expanding extraction, consumption and disposal?

We had a debriefing after the call and "Brother Phil" said something about how it after listening in on the first round of breakout groups, he understood what these calls were about.  It struck me how challenging it is to describe in simple language what we are creating in this space.  It's an experience that, as Jitendra says, goes well beyond the words.  Part of the magic is actually from the fact that we are NOT in one room together, which is usually assumed to be a loss.  But if we think about coming together as one human family, then these connections over great distances become profound.  For those two hours together, I felt that we really were "living into humanity's New Story."

Another facet of these dialogues for me Ben, is that it stretches my consciousness muscles.  Using them in this way puts a lot in my repertoire... not so much in my 'knowing' but in my familiarity and affinity and therefore my ease in relationships.  I'm finding this consciousness coming up in my many other daily connections and in other groups I'm in.  I find it's changing the conversations, deepening them very quickly into territory that usually isn't entered.

Jerry, your fantasy story telling is a comfort to me, and surely on a unity level of consciousness.  Thank you.

Hi Jerry,

I am heartened by your vision, which seems to me to be showing up in a Western context in co-housing, ecovillages, and the VillageTowns model. I've also learned a bit about the Banjar system in Bali, which is a coherent and resilient community of families on the order of a few hundred people.

What the world will look like when the eagle and condor fly together in the same sky, I cannot say. I sense that the present and increasing level of global interconnectivity is qualitatively different from the rest of human history as we know it. We are re-discovering our prior unity and that has the power to change the dynamics of conquest and domination. May it be so.

Here's the eagle and condor video produced by the Pachamama Alliance.


Weekly Cafe Calls

Regular Calls are no longer being held.  Below is the schedule that was maintained from the Fall of 2011 through Jan 10, 2013.

"Vital Conversations" 

8-10a PDT | 11a-1p EDT | 3-5p GMT 

Tuesdays (except 10/16)
"Connect 2012"

1-3p PDT | 4-6p EDT | 8-10p GMT

"Occupy Heart" 

3-5p PDT | 6-8p EDT | 10p-12a GMT

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