Day 3: All Life is Connected, May 27

All Life Is Connected by Beth McLean Wiest

It was time for another circle. This was the Stages of Life Circle. Divided into? Yep. Quadrants. (Remember, when reading / describing a circle, you always start at the east where the sun rises.)

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EmotionalSpiritual stage of life: birth – age 25

Spiritual – Mental stage of life: age 25 – 50

Mental – Physical stage of life: age 50 – 75

Physical – Emotional stage of life: age 75 – 100

We found the following perspectives on age very interesting:

  • Until age 6 or 7 you are very pure, connection to spirit world.
  • Once you get to age 75 your brain is at most powerful. You have a connection to everyone.
  • An “elder” is not age specific. Elders live by the 7 Laws. There is no official ceremony to become an elder. When something happens in the community, people know who to go to and that person becomes an elder as a result.

By this point in the day, we had learned about a few circles and were starting to see how the circles overlapped. We had learned about the creation circles, the clan circle, the parts of a person circle and the stages of life circle. When Marcel drew them, he often overlapped the circles or connected them with arrows. Anishinabe Philosophy says that you belong to community and community belongs to you. A key teaching in the stories that First Nations tell their children is this: Do not get ahead of the community. Why? Because relationship is sacred. Since relationship is sacred, the Aboriginal perspective is that our ancestors are always with us. Heaven is not far- it’s just over here at arms’ reach.

This was a big a-ha for many of us. Honoring ancestors is not ancestral worship, it’s recognition of our emotion / mental / spiritual / physical whole self in interaction with creation, with community, with our past, with eternity, with Creator.

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Steve Bell interjected. As Europeans, we have lost our stories. We have lost the understanding of sacred. We have lost our identity as a whole person. What the aboriginal people refer to as Ancestors, would be what Christians refer to as Saints. Consider this, those who are closer to God are more capable of being active in our lives. There is nothing distracting them from being everything that God designed them to be. We’ve lost touch with stories but children haven’t. And children are very connected to the spirit world.

It is important to teach how relationships reproduce. The Anishinabe believe that The Sacred Relationship is our spirituality and sexuality because that is what enhances and maintains life. Two sides of the same coin. Life comes from sexuality. Spirituality sustains life. When children learn early that sex is spiritual and therefore sacred, they are more responsible (they are in their Emotional – Spiritual stage of life). Consider the impact if we taught the 7 Laws in relationship to Spirituality / Sexuality (love, wisdom, courage, honesty, respect, humility, truth).

If you are weak emotionally and spiritually, diseases will affect you physically. In Marcel’s opinion, the reason it is difficult to find a cure for cancer and diabetes is because they are spiritual illnesses. He shared that 30 years ago when they embarked on the journey to health and prosperity, they had to learn about the traditional ways. Diabetes, obesity, heart disease are very concerning situation in our communities. Elders would say that cancer lives on foods that are not our traditional diet. (sugar, salt, flour, lard) For every ailment there is a medicine through plants, fish, birds, animals or a combo of them. In Western medicine, there are some things that work and some from our traditional medicines that work and some times it has to do with whether you believe or not. (Consider how many of our choices made in our Emotional – Spiritual stage of life and our Spiritual – Mental stage of life don’t show their consequences in our physical self until much later…)

Heresy is the separation of the sacred from the material.

When we don’t live by the 7 laws we are creating chaos, destruction, death. Whatever happens to the earth, happens to the people. Whatever happens to the wolf is what will happen to the Anishinabe. Wolf was almost exterminated because of fear. Anishinabe were almost exterminated by fear as well. The residential schools tried to exterminate the Anishinabe through the children (Emotional – Spiritual stage of life). Children were taken away from their families- even siblings weren’t allowed to show affection to one another. They were abused, they were forbidden to speak their languages, they were forbidden to do any of their spiritual ceremonies…

One of the spiritual ceremonies is the Sweat Lodge. Marcel began to explain it to us as well as the various ceremonial tools used in the sweat lodge. Little did we know at this time that the following afternoon Marcel would invite us out to his reserve, Hollow Water, to participate in a sweat lodge ceremony with him. Stay tuned for our accounts of that powerful experience for our community.

We were nearing the end of our day with Marcel. To say that our brains were full would be an understatement- it has taken multiple blogs to try and capture a snap shot of some of the learnings. Steve Bell captured the day and Marcel’s heart when he said, “If you stop receiving, you start to think it is yours and then you stop passing it on.”

May you receive some of what we learned, and may you pass it on. It only takes a spark to get a fire going…

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