21 May Connecting with Deer Spirit: the South of the Great Medicine Wheel of the New Earth

Last summer, my group of Great Medicine Wheel Students and I had gathered on Friday night at the mountain home of Larry & Charlsie Baer to start the work of the South. I was going to begin to teach the gathered students--all new to shamanic systems of healing and transformation--the magic and power of the Wheel and of a medicine bundle created by interacting deeply with the powers of nature and the forces of the elements. The mountain was stunningly beautiful in the showy, deep green of midsummer.  Even though the Baer's property is up a mountain and in the woods, most wild animals are kept at bay by their old, German Shepherd mix dog, Stoney.  Stoney is a loving yet fiercely protective presence on the land.  He greets humans with warmth and love, but makes clear to all other non-human beings that he is the boss! We began the evening calling in the Powers of the Directions, Earth, Sky, and the Great Divine Mother-Father Presence, as all earth-based ceremonies do.  I then gave a lecture about the lessons of Deer Spirit and we danced her to life after calling her energy into our own bodies.  After a satisfying evening of contemplation, mystery, and companionship, we all went to be at 10 pm tired and looking forward to the next day.  What happened the next morning--and on every Saturday morning of our 4 weekend workshops--reminded us that there is truly something mysterious and magical about the ceremony of the Great Wheel!
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19 Mar The Mountains are Alive: Why I Believe in Native American Spirituality

On August 18, 1991, the day after my wedding to my now ex-husband, I woke up in a honeymoon hotel in Virginia Beach, Virginia to be greeted by my husband holding up the front page of the newspaper with a photo of Boris Yeltsin dancing on top of a tank in front of the White House, the seat of government in Moscow in the now former Soviet Union.  I had recently finished a Ph.D. in Slavic languages and literatures and had returned just a week before our wedding from a summer post-doctoral fellowship in Moscow.  During our ensuing week-long honeymoon on the island of Ocracoke, North Carolina, I was glued to the television while I watched the overthrow of the communist regime and the end of the Cold War unfold under pressure of peaceful protests by Muscovites against a military occupation fueled by then President Mikhail Gorbachev’s own ministers.  The Soviet leadership that had for decades maintained a well-deserved reputation for unrepentant brutality against and oppression of its own people, apparently relinquished the use of arms in the face of this powerful display of the innate human desire for peace and dignity.
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19 Mar Walking in Balance: Sage, the Great Grounder

Welcome to Walking in Balance, a section of the Peace is the Human Way newsletter that introduces practices from Native American spirituality to help us be more peaceful, heal,and connect more deeply with ourselves, others and the Earth.  Feel free to try them out! Burning dried white sage is commonly used in Native American practice to help us connect with the Earth, to clear heavy energies, and to enter a more heightened state of awareness.  Sage (Salvia Officinalis) has long been known to have medicinal properties. It is said to be antiviral and antifungal and has other curative properties, some of which have been studied by western medicine. 
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11 Mar Featured Native American Peacekeeper: Venerable Dhyani Ywahoo

The Venerable Dhyani Ywahoo, as it reads on her website, is an international spiritual teacher, author, and spiritual catalyst for peace. She is a rare and precious jewel who is largely undiscovered in the Western world where messengers of peace such as Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn and the Dalai Lama are well-known.  Venerable Dhyani is a member of the traditional Etowah Band of the Eastern Tsalagi (Cherokee). Venerable Dhyani has been offering teachings of peace to any who wish to come for over 40 years. Trained by her grandparents, she is the twenty-seventh generation to carry the ancestral wisdom of the Ywahoo lineage.  She is unique as a teacher by virtue of carrying three intact streams of this ancient spiritual tradition.
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30 Jan Peace is the Human Way: Native American Contributions to Healing, Peace and Living in Balance with Mother Earth

I am here to invite you to participate in creating a vision of our future in which we embrace the truism that peace is the human way.  What do I mean by this? I mean that if I were to walk in a room and ask a group of 20 people if they think violence is "normal," they would adamantly disagree and say that peace is normal and violence is abnormal. This is precisely the opposite of what happens in my univerrsity classes on the contributions and M. K. Gandhi and the Native American peacekeepers.  Indeed, they think violence is normal. Native Americans have experienced for 4.5 centuries how abnormal and destructive violence truly is.  With nowhere to hide, nowhere to run to, instead most succumbed to the desecration of their cultures and lands until the survivors were driven into prisoner of war camps often called "reservations."  Others managed to survive by assimilating or by fleeing into remote areas and retaining what they could of their cultures.  A very few, like the Hopi, retained some semblance of their lands and cultures. From out of this destruction and despair, great teachers and teachings of peace have come forth.  Peace is the Human Way is a project devoted to putting their work and messages on the same footing as the contributions of great peacekeepers such a the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thich Nhat Hahn, the Bishop Desmond Tutu, and Nelson Mandela. 
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30 Jun How to Interpret and Live Inspired by Native American Prophesies for the New Earth

This past spring, the media was ablaze with a story about a Christian radio broadcaster, Harold Egbert Camping who predicted that on May 21, 2011, Jesus would return and those who were true believers and the "righteous" would be taken bodily up to heaven. The rest of us "nonbelievers" would be destroyed with the Earth itself in his end-times scenario.  Camping calculated the date based on a numerological interpretation of the Bible.  When the rapture did not occur as he had predicted (he had already been wrong once before in 1994), he backpedaled and said that instead a "spiritual judgment" had occurred and set a new end times date for October 21, 2011. Apocalyptic and end time prophesies have been around for millennia. Native American voices have been among them, most famously the Maya with their complex calendar. Given how many misconceptions there are about prophecy and how many fear-based messages, I feel it is important to sift the wheat from the chafe, so to speak, and offer my insights on how to interpret and live with prophesy.
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16 May Why the Great Medicine Wheel of the New Earth? 2012 and Beyond

In 2011, events lined up to compel me further out in the open about my spiritual practice combining Buddhism, Native American spirituality, and esoteric Christianity.  A number of experiences and messages led me to creating the  Great Medicine Wheel of the New Earth a set of teachings in a weekend workshop format for contemporary spiritual seekers.  Because of my initial reluctance to step forward to do this work due to the controversies and ethics surrounding the western adaptation of Native spirituality and religion, I feel it is important to tell the story about how I came into this work. My spiritual practice and my work as an academic social scientist demand that I rigorously question myself--in particular any so-called visions, dreams, or intuitive leads that come to me.  It is far too easy to mistake one's inner neuroses, unconscious intentions, and even greed for otherworldly messages or spiritual inspiration.  Every ethical and balanced spiritual path demands a great deal of discipline and practice to discern with wisdom and insight what arises in the mind, emotions, body, and beyond.  Without such a practice, we can believe we are justified in doing anything--including even perpetrating murder and mayhem such as we saw in the 9/11 bombings. Yet it is also true that we may hear the voices of Creator, Great Mystery, God and of the spirits and beings who work with us from beyond the veil.  Therefore, I have learned over years to balance skepticism with testing and ultimately to trust what continues to appear despite the objections of my so-called "rational" mind!  This, too, is a keynote of a truly integrated spiritual practice--to know just when to surrender and accept what may not make sense in the more ordinary dimensions of our daytime world. The Great Medicine Wheel of the New Earth that I have been called to teach is an invitation to join in one place and dance awake with joy the original instructions of all human beings. As such, the Wheel that I now teach I envision as merely the beginning of the planting of the seeds of a profound and powerful blending of practices and ceremonies from many traditions.  This work is in alignment with what Native American prophesies tell us is happening as we make a great shift in human consciousness in these times  I believe that a world will emerge from out of this transition that is more kind and caring.  I must add here that I have never been one to give much energy to prophesies of any kind--despite my long years' study of the new Native American spirituality.  However, the story about how the Great Medicine Wheel of the New Earth emerged in my consciousness will show why I changed my mind.
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29 Jun Can Trauma be Healed with the Wisdom of Rattle and Stone?

I came to the healing practices adapted from indigenous cultures through the path of trauma.  I suffered for many years with symptoms of PTSD as a result of childhood abuse.  While years of western psychotherapy certainly helped in the development of greater self-awareness and thus gave me the motivation to work on changing old emotional patterns, it was only when I started to explore body-oriented and energy therapies that I began to see truly enduring and deep shifts in my symptoms both short and long-term. I like to explain that I am an academic anthropologist who only reluctantly let go of a tenured position at a major research university to study shamanism full-time. 
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15 Mar How to Create an Army of Peace

It takes a fair amount of hubris and courage to create a newsletter called “Explorations in Kindness”.  I say this with a good dose of humor and humility because I am keenly aware of how unkind I can be.  Whether it is a moment on the phone getting very, very edgy and irate with a customer service representative who is being officious and unhelpful, or whether it is thinking back on the bone field of severed and fractious relationships with family and friends, it all amounts to the same thing: I am as apt to be angry and hurtful as the next person.
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