Native Americans—The Power of Forgiveness

Del Laverdure and President Obama

In 2005, while working with the marketing director at Michigan State University College of Law to promote the college’s Indigenous Law Program, I met Asst. Professor Del Laverdure, the founding director of the program. At that time, he was the chief justice for the Crow Tribe Court of Appeals, and is now the deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of the Interior Indian Affairs. The college’s law program was intended to attract Native American students to study indigenous law with the hope that they would return to their tribes and legally represent them. The tribes need lawyers to protect their lands, sacred grounds and cultural practices, and today’s battles are being fought in the courtrooms instead of battlefields.

After talking with Professor Del Laverdure, I was impressed with his demeanor and explanation of the Native American culture. This influenced me at a family gathering to ask my grandfather if he was Native American. He answered, “Yes,” but then he turned away. He didn’t want to talk about it.

Later in private, I asked my father about our heritage. This opened up a chapter about my ancestry that I never knew before. My father, who was raised by his grandparents, stated that his grandfather was a full-blood Apache. My father told stories of my great-grandfather’s adventures of smuggling sugar and flour from Mexico into Texas while being shot at by Texas Rangers. When I asked what he did when they shot at him, my father said, “He shot back!”

My great-grandfather, Manuel Carinas Herrera; great-grandmother, Juanita Garcia Herrera; and father, Robert Herrera, on his wedding day.

My great-grandfather had also worked in mines igniting dynamite—a dangerous vocation—and went back to live on the reservation for seven years. My father continued that he was the strongest man he ever knew. He could carry two logs, one over each shoulder, like a normal man might carry bags of feed.

Many people are familiar with the Native Americans’ plight of genocide, forced removal from their lands (estimated total of 93 million acres), and strategic killing of their food source, the buffalo. General Philip Sheridan is quoted as saying, “Let them kill, skin, and sell until the buffalo is exterminated, as it is the only way to bring lasting peace and allow civilization to advance.” (Ironically, the land where my father’s cousins lived across the road from his grandparents was bought and became a buffalo ranch.)

Assimilation of Native Americans

Assimilation of Native Americans

The tragedy continued with The Americanization of Native Americans assimilation effort by the United States to transform Native American culture to European-American culture between the years of 1790-1920. Native American children were forced into boarding schools, run by religious groups who taught them Christianity instead of their tribes’ spiritual customs, and banned from speaking their own language or dressing in native clothing in an effort to assimilate them. And until 1978, spiritual leaders ran the risk of jail time for practicing their rituals.

It is deplorable that our country has a history of genocide (and slavery), and that Native Americans are still forced to protect themselves against further encroachment by the U.S. government and private interests. It is also understandable why many Native Americans are distrustful and angry over these events, but are these feelings serving them?

Some might say that Native Americans are having the last laugh because of the money being made from the casinos; however, Native American gaming has also proven to be very ineffective in improving many tribal economies. Native Americans have the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the United States of America. And, when I think of the Native Americans’ former dignity and way of life, and their spiritual practices that connected them to nature, animals, and the skies, water and land, I can’t help but believe that all of us have been diminished by the cultural loss of these great people who once dominated this land.

How I would love to see the Native Americans forgive the trespasses of the past (and present), and open up their culture for all who feel compelled to join them.

Forgiveness isn’t easy, and Native Americans have received one of the hardest lessons in forgiveness that can be given, but the anger that is smoldering inside the tribes is robbing them of the beauty of their spiritual path—a path that  could be restored through forgiveness.

American Indian Dance

Image by ArSiSa7 via Flickr

Perhaps they feel that their rituals and spirituality are too great a gift to give away to outsiders. Yet, Native Americans have a resource for communicating with the Great Spirit through Native-American spirituality, also known as shamanism, Who can help them to forgive. Native Americans will not diminish themselves through forgiveness—quite the opposite. The act of forgiveness will be for themselves to let go of their anger, be at peace, and move forward with no resentment standing in the way of them knowing their true selves.

I ask them to open their hearts to the rest of the world. What greater impact could they have on their oppressors than to educate them about the Native Americans’ culture, spiritual practices, and respect for nature. People fear what they do not understand, but Native Americans can help those outside the tribes to better understand their way of life. I can’t think of a better outcome than to have everyone in this great nation practice, or at least understand, Native American spirituality.

One cannot deny the attraction that Native American spirituality holds for many people outside the tribes. Why should some tribes live in poverty, when they could accept love donations or charge for workshops, demonstrations and apprenticeships to help others become knowledgeable on their way of life. I realize many don’t feel it is proper to charge for teaching spiritual and cultural practices, but I think of it as charging for their time.

Does a Culture lose its culture by extending it to others or strengthen it? I believe they will strengthen it when they teach others, because they are reinforcing the message and its usage for themselves. This can also foster outside empathy for their ongoing efforts to preserve land, receive government monies and regain the rights to perform ceremonies that are still banned by the federal government because of the use of ceremonial plants, such as peyote. I don’t doubt that many Native Americans feel that it is sacrilege for someone to have few lessons and then try to teach rituals to others (such as the accidental sweat lodge deaths that occurred during a ceremony performed by self-help guru James Arthur Ray). To help prevent future misinformation and destructive incidences from occurring, the tribes can offer certifications that will help ensure that their rituals and teachings are performed with respect and knowledge.

We can expect a clash of cultures when the typical American’s mentality of “instant gratification” collides with an ancient belief system. So be it, we will learn from each other.

The Great Spirit is the voice of love. I can think of no better gift that Native Americans can give to others and themselves than to share that love with every living being, even the white man.

“You who were created by love like itself can hold no grievances and know your Self. To hold a grievance is to forget who you are. To hold a grievance is to see yourself as a body. To hold a grievance is to let the ego rule your mind and to condemn the body to death. Perhaps you do not yet fully realize just what holding grievances does to your mind. It seems to split you off from your Source and make you unlike Him. It makes you believe that He is like what you think you have become, for no one can conceive of his Creator as unlike himself.” ~ A Course in Miracles

Let’s Manifest Peace!

obama-putin_2637988bAs a war in the Ukraine looms over our heads, peace becomes a welcomed alternative. It’s hard not to feel helpless when the world governments are caught up in conflict and misinformation abounds.

My initial reaction was to protest the impending war with Russia. But, it didn’t feel right. We manifest our thoughts, so protesting war seemed to reinforce the possibility.

I prayed about it, but truthfully, I didn’t expect an answer to this man-made dilemma. But, a few hours later, a Facebook post showed up in my email. It had a link to an article on the technique of Ho’oponopono, used by Dr. Hew Len to cure a ward of mentally ill criminals.

The astounding part is the doctor didn’t meet with the patients! He simply sat in his office, realizing that every negative “aspect” in this world was a reflection of his mind. He healed the inmates by simply acknowledging he needed to heal himself first. So, he sat, looking at their files, while stating these words: “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.”

This was done consistently, over and over, and the inmates got better. It worked so well that mental ward was closed down because the inmates had been healed!

Today, I propose that you take a moment to think of President Obama and Russia’s President Putin and the Ukraine president. As you think of each one, say these words: “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.”

If you have difficulty praying for a president you didn’t vote, do it anyway. If you have difficulty praying for a perceived enemy, do it anyway. Feel the peace that comes with love, forgiveness and power.

Let’s see if we can manifest peace.

“I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.”
Shaman Elizabeth
To read the full article, written by Rosario Montenegro, click here.

Seven Guides to Happiness and Peace

Every decision based on fear is the wrong decision. Not because of the outcome, but because of its motive.

How do you face situations when the answers seem beyond your understanding or ability? How do you go through life feeling comfortable you are on the right path, even when events don’t seem to be going your way?

Here are seven guides for living a happy and peaceful life:

When fearful, call for love. Call on the Spirit who transforms all that is fearful into love. Offer Him your fear and He will take it from you. You will feel the emotional transformation almost immediately, if you are willing to let it go. For a detailed explanation on how to give fear and other unwanted emotions to the Spirit, please read my blog post Meditation Techniques.

When making decisions, ask for divine guidance. Ask for help throughout the day when making decisions. And, then wait for guidance that may come in the form of a gut feeling, heart’s desire, knowing, or you may actually hear the quiet voice speak to you and offer Its guidance on how to handle the situation. The Spirit will help you respond in a loving way.

When you feel guilty, realize that you are responding from fear. Guilt can be immobilizing, infecting so many others aspects of your life. Guilt stems from the fear that you have created a situation that was harmful to others or yourself. It stems from a belief that this dream is real. Can such a temporary moment be real? Can anything that was not created from love be real? There is a message from the Spirit in my book Shaman Stone Soup that answers this well: “Guilt—the universal punishment. For what? What have you done? Illusions of deeds gone wrong, misspoken words, actions that seemed to kill or harm others, all are dreams of injuries to ourselves and others, and yet they are only dreams. The spirit realm, where all the loved ones wait, is a much more accurate portrayal of yourself. Yet even this is incomplete. You are ultimately only love, extending itself for all of eternity.”

Forgive. Remember that your life is a dream created by you. Don’t spend your time blaming others. And like any dream, it’s not real! Let it go. Remember that you and everyone are perfect spirits who have dreamed of imperfection. You are not your body, your actions, your failures. Remember to laugh at your mistakes—they are just a blip on the radar. Forgive every trespass that comes to your mind. Let them all go.

Remember Your Perfectness. You cannot achieve spiritual purity, you’re already a perfect spirit. All you can do is remove the thoughts that keep you from remembering your perfectness. A message from the Spirit in Shaman Stone Soup states: “We are all divine spirits, helping others on conscious and unconscious levels. The past, present, and future exist simultaneously—all lives, all events have already occurred—leaving you with memories of illusions that you pluck from the recesses of your mind. You have reached enlightenment because you have never left it. So, you have the ability to act as an angel, reaching out to others, offering miracles and love, now.”

Surrender. You are like a wave in the ocean, fearful that the ocean will swallow you, and you will be no more. Yet, you have been alive for eternity and always will be. Release your attachment to the dream you have made, and allow your true self, your eternal spirit, to shine through. Don’t fear being part of the ocean. Accept your role in this greatness, and you will realize how mighty you are, instead of how lonely and separated you feel.

Respond with love. Life is about learning to release and forgive everything that is not love. Every temptation to be anxious, guilty, or depressed is identification with fear—an attempt to make this dream real. Love is the recognition that you are an eternal being that can never be destroyed, attacked, or diminished in any way. When you respond with love, you remember your true self.

Three Life-changing Meditation Techniques

Below are details of three meditation techniques that I recommend frequently to people. I learned these techniques from the lesson plans in the A Course in Miracles book. These meditations are useful for strengthening your connection to the Spirit, removing unwanted thoughts and releasing emotional burdens. I use the ‘Connecting to the Divine Energy’ meditation on a daily basis and the other two as needed.

‘Connecting to the Divine Energy’ Meditation
The amount of time you spend is not important. It’s the connection to the Divine Energy that matters. Even if you haven’t connected to the Divine Energy before, you can do this!

To begin, sit quietly and let your mind go blank (if you have a problem doing this, try the “Releasing Unwanted Thoughts Meditation” technique below first). Breathe deeply while envisioning the Divine Energy entering your crown chakra (top of head), letting your breath carry the Divine Energy through your spine. Feel yourself being open and receptive to the Divine Energy. When you release your breath, envision it rising over your chakras and out your mouth. This facilitates a complete “circuit,” allowing the energy to flow through your body. Continue to slowly breath in and out. The results can differ from person to person and even day to day, so be open to the sensation. You may feel love or peace, or you may simply forget about your body and ‘lose’ yourself for an instant in the Divine Energy. Again, it’s not about the measure of time, but rather simply connecting to the Divine Energy. This technique can have an extreme effect on your life, especially when practiced daily.

Although the connection to the Divine Energy can occur the first time you try it, it may take days or even months to feel the connection. Don’t give up too soon! Every time you try, you are making progress, and eventually, you’ll feel the connection.

‘Giving It to the Spirit’
You can use this technique when ever you feel overwhelmed by an unwanted emotion or simply not at peace. You can give your unwanted emotion, such as fear, anxiety, depression, anger, etc. to the Spirit by saying, “I give this to you,” either silently or out loud. The unwanted emotion is soon replaced by a sense of love and peace. The transformation takes place immediately or within a short amount of time. Each time you feel an unwanted emotion offer it to the Spirit. You may have to offer it several times (this is because you may have difficulty letting go of the unwanted emotion—not due to the Spirit’s inability to transform it).

The first time I tried this technique was when my family and I moved to North Carolina. Me and my husband were looking for jobs, but it was just before the holidays and during the 2008 recession, so we weren’t getting any interviews or calls. One day, after the stress of moving to a new state with no income became overwhelming, I felt I was about to have my first anxiety attack. Before the feeling became overwhelming, I decided to give this burden to Spirit. I felt an immediate warmth enter my body. The fear was gone within a few seconds!

It was a confirmation to me that the Spirit is always available to help and does love us. I now find myself releasing ALL unwanted emotions, even ‘small’ ones such as irritation and impatience, as they occur. This has made a tremendous difference in the quality of my life.

Releasing Unwanted Thoughts Meditation (Great for abundance!)
You can use this meditation when you have thoughts that keep interrupting your meditation.

First, sit and relax. Let your mind go blank. When a thought comes to your mind, acknowledge it and then release it. If it is a thought that causes unwanted emotion or distress, you should give it to the Spirit (see the technique above) by saying “I give this to you.” It is very important that once an unwanted emotion is recognized that it is released to the Spirit, otherwise, you will reinforce the thought and keep it.

Continue doing this until the thoughts stop coming. You can then continue with the ‘Connecting to the Spirit’ meditation technique described above.

The first time I used this technique was after an offer on a house fell through. This was on top of all the other things “going wrong” in my life, and I wondered what beliefs were limiting me from accepting the Universal abundance that is available to all of us. I spent the entire morning releasing everything that came to my mind–some from childhood and teen years right up to the present. Sometimes I had to release what I had done to others. It became a major lesson in forgiveness. But what shocked me the most was the unexpected effects this technique had on me. A few days later, the deal on the house came back and I had an offer for a job that I hadn’t applied for (and it paid well). It’s amazing what happens when we release the barriers to the Divine Energy!

These techniques can have many positive effects and you will eventually begin to ‘hear’ the Spirit’s voice, which can help guide your life. You will feel love on a daily basis and know that you are not traveling this life alone.

NOTE: Some people have expressed a concern that they felt worse during meditation, so I wrote another post , It Might Get Worse, Before It Gets Better, which helps explains this.