We hear all this hype nowadays about indigenous wisdom and culture. A big resurgence in protecting sacred lands, waterways, and traditions. Well, why?
CALM, COOL, CONNECTED... EVEN TODAY.
I can only share from my own experience, like anyone else. Living in Peru for 5 years with an Andean indigenous family, the last of the Inka bloodline, stirs something deep within the primordial soul- a remembrance you could say. A deeply embedded memory of how our ancestors may have lived in the past- a bit more slow pace, calm, insightful, nature-based, community, content. I often get this piercing knowing that it is actually viable to live in this state of presence even today.
I see my Andean elder. I watch him as he traverses cities, international airports, bustling markets— 58 years old and not knowing how to read or write, yet making it to every destination, and more effectively than myself I would say. I admire his ability to stay calm, cool, and collected in every decision, every move, every interaction. I even brought him to a Burning Man collective party in San Francisco one time (another story for another day). I was so impressed at his secure sense of self and solid way of being because the hundreds of ecstatic dancers, and who knows what else was going on there, had no affect on him whatsoever! He stood there with his genuine smile, and deep sense of connectedness to who he is, amidst of pool of creative chaos.
Once I ask him how he is able to travel internationally alone, and not be able to read the airport signs or his ticket. He tells me, he just sits and makes a prayer to Pachamama (Mother Earth) and the Apus (Divine Father) to ask for support. He knows he is never alone. He always gets to the gate and into his seat, often meeting nice people who were willing to help. The one time he missed his flight, he still arrived to his destination 2 hours later because someone helped him get a new ticket, at no additional cost. He says its all about faith, not doubting yourself, and just going for your decisions with clarity.
POSSIBLE FOR THE MODERN PERSON?
I have often thought, and maybe you are too, that its different for him. He grew up in this foreign land 15,000 ft high in the mountains.. his brain and way of being is just wired differently, thats why he can walk through life in such a way. Well, that is partially true, his perspective on life is distinct from the one I have grown up with. But what is not entirely true, is the assumption that he was somehow born uniquely magic to be able to engage situations with ease and grace. In truth, we all have this capability, he is just a model of one person practicing it quite effectively.
ITS ROUGH FOR ALL OF US:
I can certainly attest for him that his life has been anything but easy. Being a 20 year old on the first caravan out of his pueblo onto an international plane— crying out of fear of death as this metal bird raised him into the sky without ever having the opportunity to communicate to his wife where he was going. Loosing all his animals at some point to a puma attack, and having to make the hard decisions to be the first generation to move his family from the mountain to the city. The list only goes on with the hundreds of tiny daily life experiences that arise when you move into a city, not knowing the language, and being thrown into this new invention called money, with 7 kids to take care of. So you could agree, life hasn’t been all about ease and magic for him. But this GRACE thing, might be a key worth observing.
My life has been challenging in a different type of way. I grew up in a hustle n’ bustle environment, eating in the car on the ways to sports after class. Needing to be “the best”, perfecting details, and DO more & more effectively. The common challenges of machines, doctors, schools, work, relationships, emotions, doubts. I certainly don't recall getting any formal training on “handling life with the perspective of grace.” I tend to still have that fast-paced, reactive personality at the forefront of situations and experiences.
In either case, its not that life doesn’t come without challenge, it comes down to how we practice our response and perspective.
Can you imagine the possibilities if we were taught from a young age that we are connected to nature, through food, purchases, prayer, breath? That life is all an interactive interdependent organism of which we are each a part.
The great news is…. It is absolutely possible for any of us to shift our perspective and actions to one of interconnectedness, even in this day in time.. I can attest to this personally. Though re-wiring a fast-paced, emotionally reactive style of living may be challenging— its also challenging for my elder to pick up reading/writing at the age of 60 and learn how to keep up with the city life. So we come back to this GRACE thing— as it seems to be all about perspective.
Whereas my social programming might tell me to get all anxious and worked up about my job suddenly firing me— my elder would see this as a sign from Spirit that there is a different opportunity on the horizon, which he might even celebrate. Whereas I might jump to reactive conclusions when someone doesn’t follow through on their end of the deal- my elder would just say well I am not working with this person any more, and just cuts ties and learn so he can make a better proposition next time. My elder is not a person of the past, he was born in 57’, and is very much a live and thriving person today.
SO, WHY INDIGENOUS WISDOM?
Point being, it is very possible to be a calm, cool, connected person in this day in time, in the city, during work, in the midst of the millions of decisions and experiences the modern person has access to. I like to remind people that “Indigenous Wisdom” is really another description for “Human Wisdom”— an innate knowing and state of being within each of us.
“Nature-based” doesn’t mean I need to live on a farm… It could mean the choices I make in to buy organic/local food so my effect is minimal, or the way I choose to spend my free time outside rather than with technology. “Balanced” doesn’t mean I need to pick up yoga or meditation necessarily… it refers to a shift in perspective, to see the opportunity in any challenge and remain neutral with faith it will work out. “Community” doesn’t mean I need to live in a commune… it could mean shifting from an “I” to a “we” and co-supporting friends and families to reach their highest potential, sharing resources rather than always buying new ones, and spending time together. “Content” doesn’t necessarily mean I am floating on a cloud of happiness… It could mean I am appreciative for what I have, and not always in that race to gain more externally. “Insightful“ doesn’t necessarily refer to some gift of wisdom that is endowed through birth or gained through study… it can signify knowing the depths of one’s own mind, and making decisions from a wider point of view to support the well-being of the whole organism. “Slow-paced” doesn’t mean I need stop everything I am doing in life and just pick one… but could signify that prioritizing your own well-being with reflective down time rather than filling the gap could be a key to longer-term satisfaction.
There are many ways to incorporate indigenous values in the modern world. For some, this works best through ritual and tradition, for others it comes best through integrating a wider perspective into daily life choices and decisions. These are values that can extend from the individual unit, up to the family unit, to the work team, community, corporation and beyond. Its merely a shift in perspective that we are parts of a whole, we are not alone, and creation or “God” is willing to conspire with us to be a more effective part of this greater whole. So we ask why is indigenous wisdom important in this day in time? Because adopting this type of perspective can have direct positive impact on your own well-being, the land, waters, and people most immediately around you, and communities across the world.
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