Still Here

CeremonyMy e-mail has been full of dire messages from politicians and others, all warning of imminent disaster should something fail to happen. Usually the something is my giving them money. My Twitter account is filled with real life urgent situations facing Indigenous people, and others, around the world. Sadly, the latter concerns are not even on the radar of the former. It’s a conundrum.

We are in the midst of a great extinction. Animals, plants, languages, cultures, and peoples are disappearing from the Planet. Indigenous people are especially vulnerable as they face displacement from homelands, environmental collapse, forced assimilation, and genocide. Indigenous people tend to live in the last areas no one else wanted, places now known to be rich in increasingly rare resources. Yesterday’s gold rush is today’s oil boom. It’s heartbreaking. Again.

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The Presence of Mystery and the Sacred

lone-cyprusThis is the week of Passover and Easter. It is, in Judaism and Christianity, a time of mystery, a season when the complexities and unknowables of life are acknowledged and pondered.

Our lives, too, have their seasons, times and passages containing both predictability and mystery. Traditional cultures mark these moments and milestones with ceremony. Ceremonies acknowledge the transitory nature of identity, strengthening one’s sense of self, relationship, and belonging. They mark beginnings and endings, continuity and change. Continue reading

Full Circle Festival Medicine Wheel

Medicine-WheelYesterday morning we joined our friend and colleague, Alicia Daniel, to build a medicine wheel and conduct ceremony. The occasion was the opening of the Full Circle Festival here in town. The conference is the first arts focused gathering locally to explore aging with grace and creativity.

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Cultural Conflict, the Land, and Healing

Early-Spring-MorningWhen Europeans came to North America they found Native attitudes towards The Land confusing. Folks here did not own the land; rather, the land was shared. Occasionally, especially when game was scare, there would be disputes over hunting territories, but generally the land was open to appropriate use for all people. Nor did Natives understand the concept of purchasing and owning land. This led to all kinds of misunderstandings and conflicts.

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Stories and Choices


Signs of Spring

After the Earth was created The Twins were born. One Twin brought stories of peace, collaboration, and compassion into the world. The other brought tales of competition, scarcity, power, and woe. Those two remain int he world. We mortal ones get to choose which of The Twins we will listen to and align with.

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PTSD and the Healing Journey

Sunset-WoodsThe other night I had dinner with friends. After a traditional ceremonial meal, we watched Skins. I have read about the film, heard others talk about, and planned to watch it, for a long while. The film follows a few months in the life of a tribal police officer on a fictional reservation much like Pine Ridge, and weaves together myth and contemporary experience, violence and healing. Early in the story we are reminded that although humans like to think they are in charge, the spirits shape everything. Continue reading

Trauma, Story,and Healing

EveningHe sat on the sofa, pulled deeply into himself, almost disappearing before my eyes, as he told me about his dad’s violence. I wondered whether he knew I was in the room with him. “I feel terribly fragmented; I don’t know who I am,” he explained. “I can’t remember ever being like everyone else; they seem so at home in themselves.”

One of my teachers, a Psychoanalytically oriented clinician, always said the real problem is the second trauma. Her view was the first trauma one encounters sets the stage for PTSD and related problems; the second trauma triggers the cascade. Repeated traumas in childhood physically alter the function of the developing brain, leaving one more vulnerable to new trauma. Even if only one trauma occurs in early childhood the person may remain susceptible to PTSD via a second trauma as an adult.

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Spoonful by spoonful


Cynthia Coleman writes often about the complexity of Native identity and of swimming between and within culture/s. Some of my teachers insisted I understand and “try on” Buddhist ways of experiencing the world. Later I found myself working with Buddhists and Hindus in Asia. It was only with the grace of conversations with these friends and colleagues that I began to perceive a thread of connection running through our ancient traditions. Like Cynthia my father used to teach via gardening and dining metaphors using stories and visuals that crossed cultures. By so doing, he taught me finding one’s way in our complex and challenging time is perhaps its own sacred dance.

Originally posted on Cynthia Coleman's Blog:

navajo spoon Calling myself a weekend Buddhist seems to fit.
I’m afraid to stray too far from my Indian upbringing.
And I’m afraid to commit to a single way of knowing.
Truth is, my spiritual upbringing was obscure: difficult to discern.

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Spring, Creativity, and The Dreaming

Shadow-PlayIt’s March and cold; winter seems unrelenting. .  Close to a foot of snow and ice covers our yard. This winter Lake Champlain froze over for the first time in years. While the winter has felt severe, in reality it has been more of a normal season, much like the winters prior to 1990. The past ten years have witnessed consistently warm temperatures; some Vermont ecologists have monitored a winter temperature rise of over 5 degrees F at their recording stations in the southern part of the state. Now a winter filled with below zero nights seems cold indeed. Continue reading

Understanding the Medicine Wheel

Snowy WoodsI’ve been asked to say more about the Medicine Wheel. This is my understanding and it is by nature limited.

The term Medicine Wheel has been used by anthropologists and others to cover the many traditions from the Americas of seeing life’s journey as a hoop or circle. Over time the name gained common usage. That said, I believe we must remember that each culture has a unique understandings of these things, and we must be respectful of this.  Continue reading