The growing focus on Standing Rock Reservation and the issues surrounding water, oil, human rights, and earth rights brought up a memory from several years ago.
The morning after the sweat lodge we sat in a circle for our farewell ceremony. Bleary eyed in the predawn cold, something looked and felt different.
Was it just me?
I asked others who had joined our Leadership in Action program. The program was designed as a “pattern interrupt,” to leave, even briefly, from our daily ways of living and experience another cultural perspective.
The idea behind this type of adventure is to continue to move from the information age to the knowledge era. The more you know and understand systems thinking, how everything is connected, the better you can guide the direction of your life and make positive impact on those you lead. This trip was to learn new skills from Native American teachers and bring the indigenous wisdom back to the workplace.
Comments that last morning in the first light of dawn were varied. Some smiled and said they felt calm. Others answered with deep sighs, saying they had resolved some burning issues that had eluded clear resolution until now.
Only one man, a CEO of his company, said the trip had been a waste of a week. He had learned nothing from the ceremonies, felt stupid being smudged with sage and tired of the bump, bump, bump, bump, as he mimicked the constant rhythm of the tribal drums.
It was all, he snorted, of no help. In fact, he muttered under his breath it was simply listening to the losers.
I pulled him aside and asked why he even stayed for the week? And why he never said anything about his concerns?
His answer was that he knew he would never get his money back and at least the meals were good.
What did he mean by losers?
How could I not see what he meant? After all, if these native people were so smart why were they marginalized in our culture? They lived on reserved land given to them by the winner, our government, to keep them quiet and happy away from the real progress of our country. They had their alcohol and their casinos and that was perfectly fine and enough.
I gulped down my anger and was glad it was time for ceremony.
Annie Tallhouse, our Navajo teacher brought the circle to silence. We prayed together. The silence was comforting. It was inclusive. There were no thoughts of crosses or stars of David or heads covered or bare. There was just a small group of individuals who had shared a journey; to connect with the earth, to camp together and discuss what really matters and learn.
We began to chant together, the drum as our guide, “the earth, the water, the fire, the air, return, return, return, return.” Breathing in and out at the same time connected us without discussion. It simply sounded and felt good.
I kept wondering how the CEO was hanging in with this final ceremony. He smiled and nodded to me. His metta message seemed to be “Its almost over.”
We ended by singing songs that ran from John Lennon’s Imagine to “Row, row, row your boat.” Annie was the last to add her choice of song. She asked us to join in and we gave a rousing rendition of “This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York island. This land belongs to you and me.”
As we said our good byes the CEO offered quietly to me “You never know. Maybe I did learn something.” I did not ask what!
Fast forward to one month later when I received a call from our man saying he had an epiphany and needed help. His son, back from college had been diagnosed with cancer. The family was devastated.
He was calling for coaching. And for the name of the Native drum maker. He only took one drum home, for decoration and now he wanted to order three more drums so the whole family could create their own drum circle.
“You know, Sylvia, I resisted and it took a personal challenge to help me wake up. I remember Annie saying the drum creates the heartbeat of the earth and now my family needs to connect with that comforting sound.
He had surprisingly done his research and began to talk with me about the Medicine Wheel, the representation of the four directions, how the day is broken into four phases and the four stages of life.
Wow. You never know what knowledge will be there for you when you need it.
Pay attention to Standing Rock. There is much to learn about how we are all connected and no one wins unless we all do.