Ponderings of the Spiritual Life Director- 9-11-19

Balance: Through the Power of the Stories We Tell

This past Sunday, I presented you with two different creation stories: the story of Genesis (familiar to most all of us who live in this American culture), and that of Native American origin, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky. If you missed it, you can find various versions of it online (keep in mind that through retelling, especially when you are not from the same culture a story is, the story can be distorted) but the version I read was written by Thomas King in his book The Truth About Stories (super fantastic and thought-provoking book I recommend you all read!). From a reflection on these stories, offered to us by King, it was plain to see how the stories we tell can frame our thinking. In the Native American story, we are told a tale of cooperation. We are inspired by the idea that we can create beauty together, when we all participate. We are gifted with a sense of balance and harmony. This is a tale that built cultures who became experts at living with the earth, not just on the earth.

As Carol Lee Sanchez, also a Native American author explains, the simple Native American philosophy for living a good, balanced life is to “walk in beauty”. In her essay “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral”, she gives us suggestions for ways to adjust our thinking so that we, too, can walk in beauty and start to change the stories we tell ourselves, and thus, the way in which we relate and communicate with the rest of the world. Ultimately, how we think, based on the stories we know and the values we find in them, affects the actions we take. Our actions can harm, or they can bring balance.

  1. Sanchez suggests that first, we take note of our interrelatedness to all things- that includes “man-made” things. Fundamentally, everything comes from the earth. Take a walk. What do you notice?
  2. Connect yourselves with the people that lived on this land before us, she suggests, and think about all the beautiful places in our city that may have been sacred places at one time for the original native inhabitants. “Every city and town in the US was once a special place for native Tribal peoples, too, because people instinctively locate themselves in spots that are energizing and nourishing to them- physically, psychically, and spiritually,” she writes. Research and understand that history. And cultivate an appreciation.
  3. “There are trees and grasses and flowers and birds and ants and bees waiting for you to send your songs to them- to call them sister, brother, cousin, friend.” They are your relatives- this is one of the most important messages from the Sky Woman creation story. And this is what we need to remember if we don’t want them to abandon us. Attune yourself to your home place, and the environment will begin to respond to you.
  4. Begin where you are. “Do you have a baking song?”, Sanchez asks. You can create one. “How about making up a song for grocery shopping or a song for making your laundry sparkle?” Sanchez writes, “we believe that how we think about ourselves and our environment is how we will experience it in our day-to-day existence.” Therefore, we need to remember that everything we have comes from Earth, even if it is “man-made”. Start to see the beauty in all things, in every place in your life. It’s a bit like a gratitude practice, isn’t it?

When you can walk in beauty, you will come back into balance and the stories in your head will change. And when the stories in your head change, the stories that come out of your mouth change. And once a story comes out of your mouth and is told, it loose in the world, as Thomas King reminds us in his book. What world changing story can you tell? What world changing story can you re-tell? How can you speak of the balance and harmony that you find as you walk through the world through a lense of interconnectedness?

This coming Sunday, let us cultivate a story of our connection to this land. Bring in plants, artifacts (natural and man-made), pictures, stories, and experiences (please, no wild animals!). Together, we will build an altar- with what you bring- as the centerpiece of our worship. We will listen to one another and deepen our interconnectedness.

Spirit of Life and Love, let us be curious, and let us walk in beauty together.