05 Feb Sun Bear’s Breadcrumbs

In 2010, a move to a new home in the bucolic, historic village of Batesville, about 20 minutes south of Charlottesville, Virginia, triggered a series of inner and outer events which led me to create the Great Medicine Wheel of the New Earth.  I now call them with much humor and affection, “Sun Bear’s breadcrumbs.”

Sun Bear was a well-known, Ojibwe author and teacher.  Starting in the 1970s, in the face of much controversy, including recriminations from the American Indian Movement, he stepped out to teach a spiritual way based in part on principles adapted from Native American spirituality.  One of the central tools of his system for developing personal awareness and community building was the ancient system of the Medicine Wheel. He had co-authored a book by that same name with his long-time friend and collaborator, Marlise Wabun Wind. Sun Bear courageously left a rich legacy instrumental in opening a pathway for people of all cultures and races to learn earth-based spirituality.

I never personally met him, nor had even read any of his books until that that fall of 2010.   In fact, several times over the years, I had looked at Sun Bear and Wabun’s books, but did not feel called to working with the system of personal growth and spiritual exploration they espoused, as beautiful and rich as it was.   Yet 3 years after leaving my full-time, academic career, Sun Bear suddenly began to call out to me.

Batesville sits in the very center of a river valley between two mountain ridges to the North and South in a sweet, inviting, rural landscape.  The village was founded in the 18th century, and is the very essence of the best of American country living. Neighbors mingle casually along the single central village road and offer help and a listening ear.  From my desk near an open window in my home office, I could hear the happy sounds of Schoolhouse Creek.  My giant, white Great Pyrenees dog regularly barked from the front porch at a large herd of deer that grazed in the field across the creek.

Upon settling into the turn-of-the-19th-century farmhouse in late October of 2010, I kept seeing in my mind’s eye the image of a stone earth wheel in the capacious backyard.  At first, I did not pay much attention.  It was just another free-floating idea in my mind always filled with random ideas, thoughts, and sometimes distracting chatter. Further, I had never built a stone wheel, even though I had worked for many years with the medicine wheel teachings adapted from South and North America.

What I later called the trail of “Sun Bear’s breadcrumbs,” started in November when I sat down with Nancy Miller, a dear friend and gifted intuitive reader.  I occasionally went to her for her excellent and inspiring guidance about my life.

Prior to that day’s meeting, Nancy did not know that I had recently started digging into a number of books by Native American authors as part of my research on their messages of peace. One of them was Sun Bear’s autobiography, Sun Bear: The Path of Power, co-authored with Barry Weinstock and Wabun.  In fact, I had voraciously torn through the book in two sittings due to how captivated I was with his story.  I had also been reading Gandhi’s autobiography and excitedly noticed some parallels in their worldview.

Upon completing Sun Bear’s book, I thought to myself how sad it was I never met him in person.  I had a feeling he and I would have enjoyed one another and been friends.

After Nancy’s introductory prayers, she put pen to paper (her way of connecting in) and promptly said, “Sun Bear is with you.”  I was surprised and disbelieving.  However, over the years, I had learned to overcome my tendency to discount and question moments like these and to try to listen with an open mind.

So, I said with skepticism in my voice, “Why would Sun Bear be with me?!”  I was humble enough to have no illusions that someone as well-known as he on the “other side” would have any interest whatsoever in an unknown, middle-class white woman.

Nancy replied, “He says, ‘She has a good head, a good mouth, and she walks her talk.”  She then interpreted: “I think he means that you are smart, that you are a good speaker, and that people like to listen to you because you are so interesting and knowledgeable.”  She then said, “He is giving you support to step out and do your work.”

I laughed with some irony. OK, I decided, I would tentatively work with the idea that there was something more I could learn from this long-dead spiritual leader. As my teacher, Alberto Villoldo puts it, I would “serve the experience” and see where it led.

Several days later, I arrived at the home of a new friend named Maureen.  She had heard about me from a mutual friend and wanted to talk meet me. A brief phone conversation had prompted her to invite me to tea.  Once inside the front door, and after a greeting and a hug, she asked if I would like a tour of her home. I said yes, at which point, PMH led me up to the second floor.  The walls were covered with intriguing framed photos, drawings, paintings, and what seemed like sacred objects from various traditions, a number with a Native American theme.

On the second flight of the two-tiered stairwell, Maureen casually pointed to a beautiful, hand-woven, wool Native American blanket hanging on the wall to her left and said, “Sun Bear gave this to me.”  She then told me that they had been good friends for many years and asked if I had ever met him.  I was once again surprised, but couldn’t help but pay attention to the peculiar synchronicity that Maureen would pick out this particular item to point out to me, just several days after Nancy’s message from Sun Bear.

A week after my visit with Maureen, I arrived at the Charlottesville home of an elderly woman affectionately called Grandmother Mary Duty.  Nancy had connected me with Mary about a year before.  We had become friends, and I then made a point of making occasional visits to this warm, interesting and dignified woman.

Mary’s ancestry reached back to several Virginia tribes.  In one visit with her, she told me the story about how, when she was a young girl, her father had sat her upon his knee and said, “Mary, you must never talk about your Indian ancestors to anyone.  We must hide who we are.”  We then discussed the terrible legacy left in the early 20th century by Walter Plecker, head of the Virginia Bureau of the Census for 40 years, who had systematically wiped out all records which could prove the ancestry of Native American families.  And about how it became very dangerous to admit you were an Indian. Mary explained that, due to many members of her family having light skin inherited from the few European ancestors also in their bloodlines, they were able to cross the color line and keep a secret their Indian identity.

In this late fall visit in early November, I sat down on the ancient and partially collapsing sofa in her disheveled living room.  Mary was holding a Native American drum between her knees. The first thing out of her mouth after a kiss on the cheek and a hug was: “This was Sun Bear’s drum. He gifted it to me many years ago.”  She then proceeded to tell me about their friendship and about how much fun they had laughing together.

At this point, I myself could only laugh. There had now been three strange synchroncities about Sun Bear, unprompted by anything I had said or done.  I told Mary what had been happening, and about my doubts about being a white woman using Native-inspired healing practices and teaching about Native American spirituality.  Mary on the spot generously gave her blessing to me for the continuation of my work. She said, “Sun Bear would have fully supported you.  He would have seen its importance to the world.  Both of you have a similar message. Tell anyone who challenges you that Grandmother Mary Duty believes in you and your message.” With tears in my eyes, I hugged her and said how grateful and honored I was to have her support.

But even after all this, Sun Bear was apparently not yet done with me.  His presence came even closer to home after the meeting with Mary.

Due to these weird events, and how captured I had been by Sun Bear’s autobiography, I went out in search on the web of anyone who had been directly connected to him.  I discovered that his close friend and collaborator, Wabun, had a website.  I sent off an email to her from the contact page.

By Thanksgiving Day, I sat at the holiday table of old, dear friends, Hildy and Woody Baldwin.  Hildy and I had met and become bonded some 20 years before when we were both studying the practices offered by Venerable Dhyani.   She and I shared a keen interest in Native American spirituality and I had, in fact, gotten Sun Bear’s books on loan from her several months before.

It had been two weeks since I sent the inquiry to Wabun. I had gotten no response. So, as we ate turkey and stuffing, I asked Hildy if, in her own spiritual journey before we met, she had ever personally met Sun Bear. I knew he had come to teach in central Virginia a couple of times before he died in 1992.

Hildy said, “Oh, yes! Woody and I went to one of his gatherings north of Harrisonburg about a year before he died. He was very nice.  His teachings were powerful.”

This did not surprise me, given their long decades engagement with Native American spirituality.  But what followed did.  I explained to them that I had tried to contact Wabun in hopes of interviewing her for my research, but that I had received no response.  Hildy then said, “Oh, well, we were close friends with Barry Weinstock, who helped write Sun Bear’s autobiography. He actually lived with Woody and me for about 6 months after he and his wife separated.”

I was in shock. I had not imaged that Barry even lived in Virginia.  Not only that, but that Hildy and Woody, who had also taken me in for 9 months after my house was foreclosed, had also given safe shelter to Barry.  It was one of the generous things they both did for friends in need.

I said, “Are you still in touch with him?”

Hildy replied, “No, we have not heard from him in, oh, maybe 16 years. We are not even sure he is still alive.”

I asked, “Well, if he is, and living in Virginia, where do you think he would be?”

Hildy said, “The last time we heard of him years ago was that he was in Waynesboro.”  Wayesboro was a mere 20 minutes from Batesville.

At that point, I decided that I needed to find out if Barry Weinstock was still alive, where he was, and figure out why Sun Bear was dropping these breadcrumbs.

Two week later, I was invited to an evening, Christmas repast with neighbors, John and Mary, across the street in Batesville.  Since late summer, three couples had moved into the three houses closest to theirs. They decided to get us all together for a meet and greet.

With the other guests, my partner and I drank wine, and noshed on appetizers around the capacious island in the center of the kitchen.  Mary had mentioned to me prior to the evening that one of the invited men had an interest in Native American beadwork.  He was standing near me.  We had been introduced, but I could not remember his name.  Trying to start up a conversation, I said, “Mary says you collect antique, native beadwork.”

He quickly responded: “Yes, I do. Actually, for many years, I studied Native American spirituality. In fact, I co-authored the autobiography of a teacher named Sun Bear.”

I said in shock, “Are you Barry–Barry Weinstock?!”  He nodded his head.  I said again, “You are the real Barry Weinstock?!” He again nodded his head, obviously a bit amused by my reaction.

I could not believe it. After all the mentions of Sun Bear over the past 2 months, here I was standing in a kitchen across the road from my house with my new neighbor, Barry Weinstock. He and his wife had bought and rehabbed the cute house catty corner from mine.

I was in shock. All kinds of thoughts were racing through my head. I told Barry I was doing some research on the writings of Native Americans on peace and had been looking for someone who knew Sun Bear.  We agreed to get together soon to talk.

Clearly, at this point, I had to completely surrender to the fact that I had some connection with Sun Bear, that I needed to take it seriously, and to pay attention.

At first, I conjectured that this all was meant to happen because Barry was supposed to teach me Sun Bear’s spiritual system. But when he and I finally got together for a chat, Barry shared with me that he had not been doing anything connected to Native American spirituality for a very long time.  In fact, he said, “I had a realization many years ago that I was a Jewish man from New Jersey, and that I had no right to teach anything about Indians.”  I sadly recognized my own inner conflict in him.  Barry had succumbed to white guilt.  It was clear he was not going to teach me anything.  A year and a half later, he tragically died of lung cancer.

In the meantime, I kept looking at the Medicine Wheel book by Sun Bear and Wabun. While I admired its incredible detail and depth, it nevertheless did not call to my heart. I thus continued to be confused as to what this connection to Sun Bear was all about.

The holidays passed. It was 2011.  In February, I received a phone call from a couple named Larry and Charlsie Baer from Timberville, Virginia. They were looking for someone who could help them complete some previous, cursory studies in the mesa tradition from the indigenous people of the Andes in Peru. They had been referred to me by another shamanic healer and friend in Charlottesville named Sue Wolf.

Larry, Charlsie and I talked at length about their first introduction to the mesa tradition and their wish to learn more.  Still resistant to the idea of being a spiritual teacher, I said, “You don’t want me to teach. Why don’t you go to Alberto’s classes up north?”

“No,” Larry said, “We want you to teach us here.”

I said, “Well, you could study with my other teacher, Deborah Wray. She was on Alberto’s senior faculty.  She lives down the road from me and gives classes in this area about the mesa.”

Once again, Larry said, “We want you.”

Even though they had never met me, Larry and Charlsie were mysteriously insistent I do this.  Suddenly, as we talked, the image of a stone wheel in my backyard came into my mind.  I blurted out what I had been thinking.   Larry and Charlsie were very excited and said, “We have been wanting to build an earth wheel here at our house for years!”

Caught up in the mutual excitement, I said, “Well, maybe when I come to teach, I can help you build one there!”  We hung up the phone after agreeing that I would drive to visit them two weeks later for a meet and greet.

The last link in the trail of Sun Bear’s breadcrumbs was, shortly after that conversation, I came across a book called One is the Sun, by Patricia Nell Warren, on the bookshelf of healer friend in town.  I saw the familiar spine and reflexively reached out for it.  I remembered the deep an impression it made on me some 20 years ago.  I decided to read it again.

I was shocked by what I rediscovered. It seemed to be yet another breadcrumb on the Sun Bear trail.  The semi-autobiographical novel chronicles the story of a metis medicine woman living in the mid-19th century called Earth Thunder. She was a teacher of the ancient system of the medicine wheel. She learned this transformational and self-reflective way of living in her homeplace in what is now Guatemala among the Maya.

Another character in the book named Oma, was the grandmother matriarch of an old and aristocratic German family. Her family had over centuries maintained in deep secret, vestiges of the ancient pagan traditions of their Germanic ancestors. In the beginning of the story, Oma sent her son, daughter-in-law, granddaughter, and other companions to North America in search of a Native teacher of the ancient medicine wheel.  Oma had been guided by her ancestral spirits to find a particular Native American medicine woman who could fill in the blanks of what remained of her Germanic traditions.

So, Oma’s family set off to the wilds of the American West to find this woman without any knowledge of who or where she was—or if she even existed.  Through a series of synchronicities, they finally met Earth Thunder in what is now Montana.  The book then chronicles how over many years under her tutelage, they built and created a prosperous community whose mission was to study and spread the ancient knowledge of medicine wheel given to Earth Thunder by her Mayan teachers.

What stood out to me as I read was what Earth Thunder told her students about the medicine wheel tradition. She said that prior to the arrival of Europeans on the American continent, this ancient spiritual system for transformation and community building existed in every corner of the land. Teachers and students of the wheel would share, exchange and integrate their slightly different systems.  In this way, many versions of the Wheel traveled northward and southward.   She said that in the wake of the spread of war, disease, and starvation following upon the arrival of Europeans, many teachers of the Wheel were killed or died.  Others had gone into deep hiding and were not to be found.

At the book’s close, the future of Earth Thunder’s legacy was uncertain. She was killed by white man who wished to wipe out the work she was doing.  Following her tragic and untimely death, everything she created was destroyed.  The members of the spiritual community disbanded and went their separate ways. Oma’s family returned to Germany to integrate her teachings into their own.

Upon reading One is the Sun, only a few days before I was to go to Timberville to meet Larry and Charlsie in person, I reflected on the theme of the medicine wheel in my life. I recalled that my journey with it went many years back before studying with Alberto Villoldo in the late 2000s.  In the early 90s, I learned a bit about a Tsalagi, or Cherokee, version from Ven. Dhyani Ywahoo.

Then, in the early 2000s, before I studied with Alberto, I visited my sister and brother-in-law, who had been living for a number of years in southern Ireland in the small village of Skibberreen in southern Ireland. The Irish have diligently found and mapped the existence of Neolithic stone circles which litter the landscape of the Island.  For days, my sister indulged my passion for finding almost every single stone circle in Cork and neighboring counties.  This Irish adventure required reading highly detailed topographical maps on which the circles were notated and then navigating down obscure, narrow and windy country roads, and often clambering over hedges, stonewalls, and tramping through cow paddies in farm fields.

As I reflected on Earth Thunder’s story, I recalled how on one of those sisterly adventures, I sat within the remains of an ancient stone circle located on the very top of a bald, small, and yet astoundingly high mountain overlooking a wide bay.  It was late in the day, and rather cold and grey. My sister, tired from what had already been a few hours of circle searching, had decided to stay warm and snug in the car while I braved one last time farm mud and the nippy Irish wind.  I was insufficiently dressed for the weather and wearing sandals. Yet I lingered there for a long while.

I sat on one of the stones and gazed out over the bay. I wondered about the people who had built these wheels with such frequency and obvious passion. What were they doing and why? Why did they select the locations and for what reason? Were all these wheels somehow connected?  I suspected some sort of ritual endeavor, but had no real clue.

But above and beyond these intellectual meanderings, I simply felt ridiculously happy there on that mountain, as I did whenever I was with one of these Irish circles–even if all that remained were a few leaning stones. I had no idea exactly why I felt so connected to them, but there was no denying that I did.

Perhaps, I reflected, my joy was due to some deep ancestral memory going back to my English, German, Irish, and Scottish kin. In hindsight as I write this, I wonder if it was some nascent premonition about my future.  I did not know.  No obvious answers came on that high, flat plane atop an Irish mountain.

I stood up wistfully and returned to my sister.  We drove back to her home to have hot toddies before dinner.

Now, in 2010, some 10 years after that visit to the Emerald Isle, Sun Bear, Larry and Charlsie—strangers to me—and my own inner promptings, were inexorably drawing me towards the full manifestation of a long-held calling.  I was finally paying attention.

Shortly after turning the last page of One is the Sun, I took a morning walk with my dogs in an open field down the road from my home.  Larry and Charlsie and I were slated to meet a few days later for the first time in their home in the Appalachian mountains.   I was feeling moved and inspired both by Earth Thunder’s story and by the many Sun  Bear’s breadcrumbs.  In the face of the invitation to teach the mesa tradition, I was also still struggling with self-doubt and insecurity.

With my dogs racing off across the wide and verdantly green field to track the scent of deer, I stopped in the center of the field and faced the East.  Praying as I had learned some 20 years before from Venerable Dhyani, and then relearned from Alberto, I called upon the helpers of the 4 directions, Mother Earth and Grandfather Sky, and Spirit/Creator.  I then called upon all the ancient teachers of the medicine wheel through time and asked for their guidance.

What then happened should have not surprised me given all the many visions and spiritual messages and experiences I had through the years. A flood of images and messages poured into my mind through what I can only call a deep inner knowing and truth. This is what I I “heard”:

Every medicine wheel built by human beings in the past connected them in a special way with the animals, plants, minerals, water, and stones of the land upon which they lived, as well as to human and star-born ancestors and helping spirits both near and far. The evidence of these ancient teachings abound: in Europe and across the Fertile Crescent, the people built small and large circles such as Stonehenge.  In North America, they built mounded edifices out of earth, such as in Newark and Ohio.  In South America, they built great stone temples.

In each place, a person might also carry a medicine bundle, or mesa, as their own personal wheel of knowledge to connect them with the Great Wheel.  The imprints on the land of these geographic wheels and the widespread persistence of the mesa in South America— even in the face of attempts over 4 centuries by western powers and Christianity to wipe them out—point to an enduring legacy of hope and healing for humanity.

Do not worry about questions of ‘”ownership.”  No one owns this ancient form.  It belongs to all of us and is Big Enough to partner with every spiritual and religious teaching in the world to spread healing and peace for all. 

There is great need now for Wheels to be built upon the Earth: to stabilize her shaking and heal her body; to teach people what they have forgotten–how to heal themselves through connection with the natural world and to live peacefully in community.  Your wheel—the Wheel that will take physical form in your travels, studies and teachings–will be called the Great Medicine Wheel of the New Earth.

At first, I balked at the name.  It sounded so—well, pompous.  “Great”—as if it was “greater than” or so big and important. Or that I, to be the one to spread the word about it, was so “great.”

As a result of these conflicted thoughts, in my mind I said in response, “Really? The Great Medicine Wheel? You’ve got to be kidding!”

The inner response came:

The meaning of the Great Medicine Wheel of the New Earth is not about self-aggrandizement, nor power over. No. There is no above or below, better or worse than.  It invokes the truth that this Wheel is great enough to bring together people of all faiths, backgrounds, religions, races, and cultures, to sit at this great table of compassion.  When they do, they will dream into being the New Earth to come seven generations hence of harmony, peace and love.

My body buzzed and tingled.  I began to feel some excitement and a burgeoning hope that I could confidently accept of the task ahead and the role of a spiritual teacher.

After the stream of messages stopped, I walked several feet ahead and saw on the ground right in my path, the feathers of a crow. It seemed to be a sign. Indeed, a crow had appeared to me in two previous dreams the week before which seemed to presage a shift for me in spiritual direction and calling.

After picking up the feathers, I took a few steps more.   A deer suddenly moved out of the shadows of the woods by the side of the field. She started at first and froze. I stopped, entranced by the magic of her presence.  We looked into one another’s eyes.  The inner voice continued:

The Wheel you teach will include all the animal allies and teachings from South America. It will also include animals familiar to your landscape in North America, just as it will contain wisdom from other lineages to which you are connected—Buddhist, Christian, and all you know from western streams of knowledge.  In this way, the Great Medicine Wheel of the New Earth will be both similar to, and yet unique from those of your teachers. This is the natural way the medicine wheel through the ages has grown.   

The message ended again. The message from Sun Bear was coming more into focus.

I knew I had gotten an answer to the question of whether I should go forward to teach about the medicine wheel and the mesa tradition.  Doubt was gone.  I also understood that Sun Bear had not been calling to me to replicate his way, but to create another, equally as rich map for others to learn from.  Just as the medicine wheel he and Wabun created arose out of their inner vision and guidance, so would mine.

It is now 7 years since Sun Bear planted those breadcrumbs. I have since then taught a version of the medicine wheel for those seeking personal growth and spiritual transformation.

I have also experienced the medicine wheel in my own life as a complex and rich source of knowledge, wisdom, and healing.  I have learned that, as Sun Bear himself says, every person’s experience of the Wheel is different.

I believe that if Sun Bear was, indeed, “visiting” me from the other side–and I presume nothing, as who am I to say I know for certain—I would conjecture that if he were trying to spread his vision now, he is visiting many, many people on Earth today.  He, as well as all the teachers of the great medicine wheels through the history of Mother Earth would understand that the time is ripe for them again to spread far more widely than they ever have in the past.

I will now share here what Sun Bear said about the medicine wheel in his book co-authored with Wabun, Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology:

The Medicine Wheel is a magic circle which encompasses all of our relations with the natural world.  It is a sacred tool which can teach us how to eat well; how to heal ourselves and others; how to hear the songs and stories that the wind and the water bring to us.  It can teach us, too, the most important lesson, which is that we are each a small, unique part of the universe, and that we are here to learn harmony with the rest of Creation.  When people feel something is missing in their lives, they often find part of it by working with the Wheel, because it helps them to grow closer to nature, and to the elemental forces.

For the past 40 years, many wise teachers on many continents, in addition to Sun Bear, have been reclaiming the ancient teachings of transformation, healing and peace of the medicine wheels of their ancestors.  They have brought to the table the energies and spirits of their ancestral backgrounds and personal histories. Sun Bear was given his Wheel in a vision by the spirits, as he shared in his autobiography:  “I saw a hilltop bare of trees, and there was a soft breeze blowing….Then I saw a circle of rocks that came out like the spokes of a wheel. Inside was another circle of rocks, nearer to the center of the wheel.  I knew that here was a sacred circle, the sacred hoop of my people.”

Who are “the people” today, I asked myself as I walked through that field in 2010?  And what Wheels are needed today as we live in the 21st century?  Hopi, Lakota, Iroquois, Mayan, Inkan, and other prophesies say that 2012 was a significant turning point in human history.  They say that if human beings step up to do the hard work of self-confrontation and transforming consciousness, we will usher in a Golden Age of peace and harmony.

My reluctance to embrace these prophesies has changed radically over the years. I have seen too much which seems to point to their inherent truth.  I now believe that humanity and Mother Earth are going through a great–even monumental change.  The evidence is in what appears before my very eyes.

In my private client healing practice, I am noticing that clients are making bigger leaps in self-awareness and healing in shorter time.  In my undergraduate and graduate classrooms, and in workshops for professionals, people have shown up hungrier than ever to engage with big questions about spiritual life, and are more willing than my students even 20 years ago to self-confront and to do the hard work of inner and outer change. They want an end to violence and hatred that mars our world. They are more open about sharing their spiritual worldviews without imposing them on others.

Then there are the mounting numbers of earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, and strange weather patterns around the world. As one student recently said to me, “Isn’t it strange that no one in the press is making any correlations between all these events?”  This is a woman whom I would never expect to be so, well, woo-woo about such things.

Native American teachers have called this phenomenon “Earth Changes.”  Sun Bear put it this way in his book, Black Dawn, Bright Day: Prophesies for the New Millenium:

To Native people, the Earth is a living, intelligent being. It is capable of making the necessary changes for its own survival.  These changes might not be convenient for Humans, but Earth will make them anyway.  There will be drastic climate changes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, economic and political problems, and other problems humans have caused for themselves. The planet will survive….Humans are just another species on the planet.  We are the same as the deer and other creatures that begin to die off when they get too far out of balance, or out of harmony with the path they’re supposed to be on.

I am no proponent of prophesies that predict huge loss of life based on whether a person believes in one thing or another or does one thing or another.  However, there is no doubt that natural disasters have in the past 2 or more decades led to much death and destruction.  There is mounting and terrible devastation from war, greed and ignorance. More and more individuals shooting into crowds and killing dozens and injuring others.  Human beings continue to deforest and poison the face of the Earth, to pollute the waters, and to support terrible inequities in access to basic resources such as food, shelter, and medical care. Children around the world are starving to death and are being enlisted as soldiers in brutal, mercenary wars.   Leaders such as Donald Trump are showing us the face of ignorance, fear and confusion in greater relief than ever before.

Even here in Virginia where I live–a state in the richest country in the world–there are people whose only access to medicine is when volunteer doctors, nurses, and others hold free clinics for one week twice a year. One volunteer told me that people start to line up the night before to makes sure they get seen. What a travesty!

We humans continue to resort to violence to resolve conflict instead of seeking alternative avenues for healing and reconciliation, of which there are many available. In face of this state of affairs, it is no wonder that many students over years have told me that they believe violence is hardwired into our species.  How sad that we are suffering so very deeply.

How sad it is that we have forgotten another way—a truly human way.

Sun Bear’s emphasis in his life was giving people strategies for physical survival in times of Earth changes–going back to the land and learning how to hunt, forage, preserve precious water reserves and other basic skills.  He also talked about the critical importance of healing our personal wounds and learning to live peaceably in community.

We must cultivate the energies of love and compassion through daily practices creating beauty, connection, and healing.  Doing so will help us get to reach through anger and discord to reconciliation and peace. As my Cherokee teacher, the Ven. Dhyani Ywahoo puts it in her book, Voices of Our Ancestors: “Recognizing that patterns of mind manifest as one’s individual, family, clan, national, and planetary relationship, the Peacekeepers turns aside anger, doubt, and fear, harmonizing conflicting emotions through complementary resolution.”

Thus it is that during that morning walk with my dogs in 2010, I had a vision of many Great Wheels laid upon the Earth in many, many locations and many, many students stepping forward to bring their own vision, life experiences, wounds, and passion to this great table of compassion.  We will then become humble and grateful participants in a worldwide movement, to call forth out of the greatness of our hearts a New Earth of peace, healing and sweetness.

I am thankful to all my teachers, both in and out of the body, to Sun Bear, and to Larry and Charlsie for listening to their deep knowing, as well. May it be so for all of us.

Rachel Mann
rachel@mettaknowledge.com
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