2009 was the Year of Living in Peace and to do that we needed to look at the ways we are violent with ourselves. When my teacher, Will Rockingbear (Cherokee) first told me I was violent, I have to admit I was bewildered - I wasn't a violent person. I didn't go around hitting people or shouting obsenities to their face, I didn't hurt animals or suddenly lash out in anger without provocation. But I did say things to myself like, "you are so stupid," or "can't you do anything right" or "what's wrong with me?" or . . . the list could go on and on.
And yes, I did curse people in the privacy of my own car, or in my mind. I did make scathing remarks under my breath to make myself feel better in my perceived helpless, hopeless situations. I did hurt myself and others with my thoughts, words and actions of feeling like a victim or silently standing by while someone else was seen as a victim. I did sometimes feel lesser than, unworthy, not enough, stupid, arrogant, intolerant, fearful, shameful and guilty. I never thought all these things made for violence but now I see it's the small violent words and acts against myself that erode my inner peace, my equanimity, my connection to myself.. I made an agreement with myself that whenever I make a disparaging remark about myself or someone else, I restate that thought to be one without judgment, without prejudice, without malice. Whenever I separate myself from others, lose my connection to myself, temporarily forget who I truly am, aren't true to myself or "fall asleep" in my life, I notice that I did that, and then recommit myself to not doing that again. In this way, I forgive myself and move on.
We all have the opportunity this year to create a peaceful life for ourselves - holding a place of peace within ourselves, in our families, our work situations, our communities, our country and the world. Living this level of peace requires immense spiritual, mental and physical strength as it is truly a dynamic state of being. All the energies are aligned this year to assist us in this incredibly important healing work. When I first understood from Spirit what the vibration was for us this year, I realized that I still thought of peace as a passive posture, a state of not doing something in response to something actively being done. But I am learning that living a peaceful life is anything but passive! Paraphrasing the words of The Peacemaker, that Radiant One who brought an end to the warring and killing between the tribes of the Eastern Seaboard long ago, creating the Iroquois Confederacy (which provided a solid basis for the fledgling United States' Constitution): "Peace is a vital, sexy process. Peace is how you feel when your mind is untroubled and you are in glowing good health and all the parts of your body are working together well." We can expand this understanding to encompass peace on earth - all the peoples of the world working together well, untroubled by greed, lust of power and the belief in limitation. That state of dynamic, active peace is coming! It's manifesting right before our eyes and we all need to help hold the energy of living in peace by living in peace within ourselves.
One of the teachings that I have been working with for the past several years is the energy of a Peace Village. Many generations ago, there were native communities designated as Peace Villages where a person who had committed a crime in their village could go to regain their spiritual balance, heal and become whole and sacred once more. Once they had made it to the Peace Village, retribution was no longer allowed against them as they completed one year of inner reflection, healing, forgiveness and understanding. The Elders of these Peace Villages were committed to holding no judgment, blame, shame, guilt, or punishment in the course of their teachings and healings. This created a container of energy for the person to remember who they really were and to realize that by committing a crime - even murder, showed that they had fallen asleep, forgetting how to act as a sacred human being. After their year was completed at the Peace Village they returned to their home where they were welcomed back. The actions they chose to take once back in their village reflected their return to wholeness so that the whole village was strengthened and harmony was once again the norm.
This understanding of the native ways of justice is so timely as we are working with the Clan Mother of the 3rd Moon Cycle, Weighs the Truth this month of March (The Thirteen Original Clan Mothers by Jamie Sams). She teaches us how to accept the truth. In her story, one of the women in the village, Blue Goose, has been taking extra food from the communal stores, another woman, Running Water, who is a gossip and tends to others' business in order to feel more important sees her thefts and reports her. The women are at odds, each accusing the other of wrongdoing. When Weighs the Truth is asked by the villagers to see beyond the physical acts that have taken place to bring a deeper understanding of the situation so that harmony and balance can be restored, she consults with her animal helpers - Owl, Weasel, Crow, Crocodile, Zebra and Raccoon - over the course of four days and four nights. They help her to fully realize what is needed to bring healing to these two women and to the village. What she is shown is the pain that Blue Goose holds from losing a child to starvation and fear that she will lose another, and Running Water was acting from an unfulfilled need to be noticed, appreciated and recognized as a worthy member of the community. Weighs the Truth gathered the villagers and decreed that Blue Goose needed to replace what she had secretly pilfered, gathering double the berries, nuts, tubers and greens, distributing them equally to each family who had lost a loved one to starvation the winter before.
Over the next 13 moons, she was to share her story of loss with each family and to hear theirs, caring for different children who had lost their parents to starvation as if they were her own. Running Water was to silently accompany Blue Goose, never talking of what she heard and shared, and assisting the Medicine Women during healings and counseling sessions, but again, not ever discussing what had been shared in confidence. After the 13 moons, the community came together again to hear from the two young women what they learned. Both had learned from the tasks set upon them and had healed their fear, selfishness, sorrow and pain. The whole community rejoiced with a celebration as they had seen both women regain "The Beauty Way" during their time of healing.
I have made an agreement with myself to live my life as a Peace Village. This means that I laid down the habit of seeking who to blame - myself or someone else. The only reason we have to find someone to blame is so we know who to punish. We become the Judge sitting on high deciding what punishment fits the "crime" and how long the punishment should last in order to be an effective deterrent for future misbehavior. From this model we see guilt, shame and remorse as desirable qualities but from my experience these very emotions keep us from "remembering" who we are and how to live our lives as sacred human beings. As I live my life as a Peace Village, it means that when I see that I have acted against my true nature and its' alignment with the world, I say out loud so that all my relations can hear me "I noticed that I (i.e. justified my choice to my loved one) and I'm not going to do that again." By making this statement I announce to All My Relations that I noticed I had been asleep but am now awake and making a declaration that I will do differently from now on. Even if I fall asleep about the very same thing the next day, as soon as I notice that I didn't keep my word, I restate my agreement in the same way. I don't have to judge, blame, berate, kick, or whip myself if my goal is to learn and grow. If my goal is to be perfect or to "get it right" then I will fall back into the habits of blame and punishment. By noticing how I was out of balance, out of bounds, or out of my mind, I learn what actions to take to stay in balance, to be congruent with my thoughts, words and actions, to be harmonious and peaceful. If I am sincere in my quest to learn and grow as an individual, as a human being, then my "crimes" or times I fall asleep are the ways I am learning about myself. To be met with understanding, tolerance, love and compassion when we have committed an offense against ourselves or others, is an incredible healing.
The violence we do against ourselves perpetuates the violence in the world. The words we use against ourselves are usually much more corrosive, hateful and hurtful than any words we would ever say to anyone else. When we are not true to ourselves but go along with the crowd, we are being violent with ourselves. When we feel lesser than/greater than, comparing ourselves to others, we are being violent with ourselves. The outer is a reflection of the inner. As more and more of us lay down judgment, prejudice, expectations, control, manipulation, hatred, mean-spiritedness, and pain then healing will take place within our families, within nations and among nations. When the violence occurred on 9/11, I went into my healing room and asked my spirit guides what I could do to help. I thought I might be asked to help those who had died in confusion, not realizing what had happened. But Spirit said that the way I could best help would be to heal the violence in my own family - that by doing the healing in my own life, I would be helping to heal external manifestations of violence.
Living in Peace within ourselves is not only possible but is innately our natural way of being. We can return to this natural state of grace, this Beauty Way by loving ourselves. Love and compassion are actions. They aren't just feelings. The actions we take, the words we say, the thoughts we feed in our minds, all are ours to choose - each moment of every day. When we accept responsibility for our actions, words and thoughts, we reclaim our personal power. This is how we get better in our lives - one breath at a time with each action, each word, each thought.
These are my words.