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

The Smallest Particle

Blood Cells

Image by Andrew Mason via Flickr

One lazy day, when I was 14-years-old, I was lying on the living room floor letting my thoughts wander. For no particular reason, I wondered if there was a limit to how small a particle could be. I envisioned a blood cell, then the particles that made up the cell, then the sub-atomic particles that made up those particles, imagining each particle dividing into a smaller particle. My mind zoomed through each division until suddenly I was in the presence of God!

What an unexpected occurrence! There was no doubt in my mind that the vision was real, yet the reason for the vision was beyond me at the time. So today, many decades later, I asked the Spirit to give me the meaning. Below is the channeled response:

“You do not find yourself out there. You find yourself within. The vision was symbolic. It showed the journey to the inner self, the self that is connected to God…the self that is not fooled by outward forms and dreams of temporary events. You let your mind be open and receptive, if only for a moment, but that was enough..that is all it takes. You do not need a lifetime of trying to find yourself. You are already with God.

The outward form is an illusion created by the mind, a smoke screen blocking your awareness of your true self. When you are ready to let go of this ‘protective’ shield, you will see the world for what it is…nothing. You will be at one with your perfect self, as you were created. You will be awake once again.

Your thoughts continue to block your return. Thoughts shield you from hearing your true self, who is trying to reach out to you…thoughts block help from the Spirit. Sit quietly and let it come. What have you to lose except unhappiness and fear?”


“It is quite possible to reach God. In fact it is very easy, because it is the most natural thing in the world. You might even say it is the ONLY natural thing in the world.” ~ A Course in Miracles

Close the Curtains

Closed red curtain at the Coolidge Corner Thea...

Image by brokentrinkets via Flickr

We got what we wanted. Long ago, in a blink of an eye, we created this universe. Our powerful selves, created by the thought of God, possessed the power to create. And so we did.

Being God’s children, it took only an instant to create all thoughts of time and space, and for all the events to play out every imaginable scenario, from the richest life to the lowest form of humanity, from glad scenes to acts of war. And, at the end of this “play,” we realized that none of it was equal to or better than our home in heaven. And, like the prodigal son, we want to go home.

Going home is the goal, yet, guilt and fear of retribution causes our delay. And so, we keep our mind focused on reruns of the play, drifting from one scene to the next, unable to face our deepest fears.

Because the mind is still focused on the play, it needs help from the Spirit to release its guilt and fear and remember its true self. The mind needs to be reminded that the actors on the stage are not real, and that the scenes of hate, fear, and guilt can be transformed into scenes of love. Eventually, we will rewrite the entire play, leaving only the acts of love, and then, the last person sitting will get up and leave the theater.

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.

Why a Healing May Not Take Effect

There are many reasons why a healing may not take effect:

Conflicting Wishes

If a person has two wishes that conflict, then obviously they will experience disappointment of one of them. For instance, if a person wants to be healed of a physical or mental disability, but doesn’t want to go back to work, they have a conflict. Because going back to work can involve fear, the desire to stay home may triumph over the request to be healed.

A true-life example of conflicting wishes occurred when a mother requested a shamanic healing for her teenage daughter, who because of a difficult birth had become severely mentally impaired, needed constant care, and was prone to violent outbursts. During the shamanic journey, I requested a healing for her daughter, but was told by the spirit guide that the young girl had agreed to this disability before coming into this life to learn a tough life lesson. In previous lives, she had been extremely beautiful and enjoyed many privileges. She also had been unkind and sometimes cruel, because she could get away with it. She now was experiencing a lifetime with that same beauty, but with no way to take advantage of it and was relying on others for help.

As the spirit guide explained this to me, the young girl’s spirit watched in the background hoping for a healing, because she did not want to complete this difficult life lesson. But, the spirit guide said it would be a waste of an important life lesson if she were healed.

Her current wish to be rid of this disability conflicted with her first request to make spiritual progress through a difficult life lesson, and only one could be honored.

Fear
Why would a miracle cause fear? When a person experiences a transformation in this reality that cannot not be explained with laws of this world, they have to accept that there is a greater force outside of this reality. This could result in uprooting their entire belief foundation and cause fear.

The Spirit will withhold a healing if it will induce fear, however, when the person is ready to accept the healing without fear, it will be waiting for them.

Removing the Root of the Problem
Your entire being is created by thought, as is the universe. Your thoughts are extremely powerful and have the power to create your life, including happiness and love, and, on the less positive side, illness and misfortune.

For instance, if you are holding a grudge against your mother because she was emotionally abusive, this anger, even if it is openly expressed against her, is held within you. You experience the negative thought flowing through your mind—which manifests into this reality in the form of negative energy/stress, coursing through your body looking for an outlet, and, if it is sustained long enough, may cause an illness to develop (over and over).

The thought must be removed from your mind for a complete healing to occur. You may temporarily ease the symptom through medications, or time may seem to heal it, but it most likely will recur because the root problem still exists, although it may change form. It’s like crabgrass where you have pulled out the green blades of grass above the surface, but the roots remains, ready to regrow.

To completely remove the cause, you must release it through forgiveness. This can be hard work, and I recommend that you ask the Spirit’s help with this one (see the meditation technique, ‘I Give This to the Spirit‘). If you have suppressed your emotions, it may take a lot of honest reflection to reveal your true state of mind.

Guilt
Guilt can easily project its negative energy into the body to induce and retain illness.

The ego uses guilt to keep you focused on seeing yourself as a body, instead of a perfect spiritual being. A great diversion tactic!

Guilt is a worthless emotion. You were created a perfect spiritual being and have remained so in eternity, but the ego would have you believe that your guilt has made you unworthy of love and healing. Again, I recommend the meditation technique, ‘I Give This to the Spirit‘ for releasing this emotion, because guilt can be a tough one to release on your own!

Acceptance
A healing once given needs to be accepted, even if on an unconscious level, to be effective. If a healing is not immediately accepted, it will not dissolve, but it will wait patiently until a person is ready to accept it.

Blessed journeys!

Changing Perspectives

CougarDuring a shamanic journeying, I was guided by Jesus to a waterfall. He asked me to look at it and give my impression. I looked at the waterfall with its cascading water flowing into a lake surrounded by lush trees, and said it was beautiful.

Suddenly, we were at the top of the waterfall. The sound of the water was deafening as I peered over the edge. Jesus asked me again to give my impression.

I said, “I am afraid of falling and it’s scary.”

Jesus said, “It’s the same waterfall, yet your perspective changed. This applies to everything in life.”

Then, we were in a forest. A fox appeared and came up to Jesus. As Jesus petted him, He said, “You are like this fox…smart, fast and cunning. Yet, the fox hunts at night, too afraid to show himself during the day. You must become more like the bear and cougar, and be able to show your full strength in broad daylight, without fear and being true to yourself.”

Jesus was kind enough to help me see that my perspectives are based on whether something seems ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Judgements that I am not qualified to make. I must rely on the Spirit for its judgement, and be willing to take action as I am inspired to do.

Transformation takes time and involves many life lessons—not necessarily easy lessons. But no one said it was going to easy.

Blessed journeys!