Last month’s post, Contemplating the Beauty of Our Elders, celebrated those Elders who have offered us wisdom. I define an Elder as one who has lived longer than I have; one who seeks to grow wiser as they mature; one who rejoices in their own unique life story and voice. Often Elders have taken many divergent paths, and are able to offer insights due to their vast range of experiences.
An Ancestor may or may not be an Elder. They are ones born from my motherline or fatherline. Though I respect my Ancestors, I don't automatically attribute wisdom to them simply because they were born before me. (For a terrific listen on the wisdom that adults can learn from kids, you may enjoy this June 1, 2018 Ted Radio Hour podcast on NPR.)
WISE ELDERS SUSTAIN THE UNITY OF ALL OF LIFE ON BEHALF OF THE SEVENTH GENERATION
This month, I would like to look at what it means to act as a Wise Elder on behalf of the Seventh Generation to come. Seven generations would be the great-grandchildren of your great-grandchildren! Scientists now define a generation as 25 years, so seven generations = 175 years or the year, 2193—not a time span most folk consider too often; rather, more a time frame futurists or science fiction writers would find interesting, right?
Instead, let's keep it simple and just imagine two generations or a mere 50 year time span and apply the Iroquois Seventh Generation Principle, which is said to have originated around the 12th century. This principle reflects the philosophy that decisions made in the present must create a sustainable future for the seventh generation to come. Implicit in this principle is the Unity of ALL of Life--humans, creatures, the land, the waters, the sun, moon and stars--ALL Beings that make life possible on the planet.
Ecologists recognize that the principle of sustainability is as natural as breathing to indigenous people. To care for our Mother Earth and to protect it from pollution is a natural expression of the Seventh Generation Principle, just as Walking the Beauty Way is also an expression of the sacred Unity of all of Life.
In contrast, consider modern people's stewardship of our natural resources in this small example: The Mississippi River drains the land of nearly 40% of the continental United States. It also carries an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of nitrogen pollution into the Gulf of Mexico each year, resulting in a dead zone each summer about the size of the state of New Jersey.
Somewhere along the line, a group of people thought this annual dead zone was okay. Or maybe it happened incrementally or maybe they didn’t think it was a big problem. Or maybe its seemed insolvable. Or maybe self-interest groups trumped community interest. Maybe some groups spoke against it and even passed laws but not enough was done to prevent this annual dead zone from accumulating.
Every historical action began with thoughts, which became words, that were manifested into deeds. Who among us now are the Wise Elders committed to Sustainability and Unity on behalf of future generations? Certainly not the current leaders of the EPA.
THE MOST ANCIENT HUMAN POLLUTION OF ALL
The original and most ancient of all human pollutions is a Dis-Unity of Mind, the converse of the Seventh Generation Principle. The Dis-Unity of the Mind is the illusion that we do NOT belong to one another and therefore have no vested interest in caring for the stranger in our midst or the stranger on the other side of the world or for the descendants who will be born 50 or 175 years from now. The Dis-Unity of the Mind also causes a terrible estrangement within--the illusion that we do not even belong to our own precious self! There have certainly been dark times in my life when that illusion of separation had me in its near-fatal grip. (Theologian Paul Tillich wrote about this Dis-Unity of Mind in his famous sermon about Sin and Grace.)
Ultimately, Dis-Unity of the Mind is a pollution far more harmful to humanity than even the countless assaults on our global environment such as the annual Gulf of Mexico dead zones.
Now of course, I am not naive enough to claim that all human Ancestors, Iroquois or other, embraced the ideal of Unity of all of Life on behalf of the Seventh Generation!
However, if we are sincere about leaving our world a better place for our descendants, we must study and learn from history about the possibilities and constraints before we act.
In addition to positive examples of Sustainability and Unity, Wise Ones suggest we need to bring the Shadow of our historical Ancestors’ beliefs and practices into the Light. There is no intent to blame or shame here. We can bless our Ancestors and trust they would have done better if they knew better. We certainly hope our descendants will give us the same benefit of the doubt as well!
SHARING SOME FAMILY STORIES OF DIS-UNITY OF THE MIND. WHAT ARE YOURS?
I remember hearing stories from my maternal grandmother Purcell about NINA (No Irish Need Apply). Her parents, as very poor and hungry young Irish immigrants to Boston, would be turned away from even the most menial of work by signs in the windows of stores and homes. It was clear this hurt was never healed in Gram’s heart. Yet, she was quick to criticize the Italians, the French, and the Portuguese. Not to mention the Blacks. She saw no shared humanity in another group’s experience. Dis-Unity of Mind.
My paternal grandmother Beddoe denied me and my siblings a chance to play with the children next door during our August visits simply because they spoke a different language and had brown skin. Sweating profusely, we watched with longing from the window as our lost playmates gleefully scampered through the sprinkler on those endless hot Tulsa summer afternoons. Dis-Unity of Mind.
Another family member, whose grandparents were poor Italian immigrants who suffered terrible discrimination in the New World, confided in me his disgust for his newly arrived neighbors living “crammed into houses not meant for 8 or 10 people.” I asked him if there weren't similarities to his family’s life when they first arrived in America. He agreed his grandparents had lived in overcrowded tenements BUT he exclaimed his people certainly were not like these “animals.” (Sound like anyone in the news?) Dis-Unity of Mind.
How do we humans get here over and over and over? This song, "You've Got to be Carefully Taught," from the prophetic 1949 musical South Pacific, gives us insight:
You've got to be taught to hate and fear
You've got to be taught from year to year
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught
You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade
You've got to be carefully taught
You've got to be taught before it's too late
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You've got to be carefully taught.
INTERRUPTING ANCESTRAL PATTERNS OF DIS-UNITY OF THE MIND
First of all, becoming a Wise Elder on behalf of the Seventh Generation means making a commitment that the ancient toxic pollution of the Dis-Unity of Mind stops with this generation. It means Dis-Unity of Mind has to stop with me. First though, it means figuring out how Dis-Unity of Mind lives within me.
An important practice in walking the path of personal spiritual maturity is to make a fearless, independent and rigorous search for truth. I confess there is a part of me that wants to trust without questioning, especially if it looks like conflict may arise with those I love and respect. I have had to learn to value my own integrity above gaining the approval of others.
This search for truth has meant standing on my own two feet; paying attention and verifying from my own direct experiences what makes sense; and increasing my trust in my intuition. It has meant the conscious practice of Questioning Everything that the "authorities/powers that be" in life have passed on to me as "gospel". My Inner Teenager is alive and well, maintaining an excellent BS radar for this purpose! She is so inspired by the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and how they are fearlessly speaking Truth to Power.
Additionally, the Wise Ones guide us to include our own families of origin history in our history study. We need to look carefully at where we first absorbed generational thinking, attitudes, biases, as well as subtle and overt prejudices that may have stayed with us into adulthood. Our history lesson involves objectively discerning our unconscious patterns of inherited family thought-forms. It involves questioning and unpacking family myths and attitudes.
Ancestors may have passed on toxic thought-forms or generalizations about groups of people who were NOT part of your group. Think of all the nauseating slurs you may have heard in your lifetime directed at the Other. What about the slurs directed at your group? Think about the Dis-Unifying implications behind them:
- “X” people don’t believe in our (or worse, any) God. Therefore, they are…(less human than we are).
- “Y” people weren’t born here. Therefore, they are…(less human than we are).
- Women do or don’t… Therefore, they are…(less human than we are).
- Men do or don’t… Therefore, they are …(less human than we are).
- Kids today...Therefore, they are...(less human than we are).
- People who look like that are... Therefore, they are...(less human than we are).
- People who vote that way are… Therefore, they are …(less human than we are).
- People who live over there are… Therefore, they are …(less human than we are).
- Those (who are not in our group) do or don’t…Therefore, they are …(less human than we are).
It is painful to question the group mindset we have inherited from our ancestors. And yet, if we don’t, we'll continue to perpetuate the past. Tell yourself the truth! Some useful questions include:
- What unexamined habits of thought do I still hold on to?
- Which inherited thought-forms seem to stick like glue in my mind?
- Who has gone before me who taught me to think in certain ways that exclude segments of humanity simply because they are different from the group I “belong” to?
- Who has gone before me who has told me negative tales about other family members that I have accepted as truth yet not been able to verify through direct experience?
- Do I carry and repeat these negative stories despite no direct experience of my own? (How weird is that?)
Look around. Consider the groups you identify with or oppose. Read the news of war, famine, racism, sexism, tribalism, nationalism, and power struggles. Deeply ponder the historic consequences when these groups pollute our world by continuing to perpetuate thoughts, words and actions of Dis-Unity. They are setting in motion generational group karma that adversely affects thousands.
The Law of Karma is the Law of Cause and Effect. It is not about good or evil! Simply put, it means that whatever action I take has an effect. When I first heard my teacher say, "Beware of group karma," of course I questioned what that meant! Group karma is the karma (cause) set in motion by a group. If I strongly and actively identify with a specific group, I will be impacted by the effect of its actions, regardless of whether I am the one who throws the bomb or sends the nasty email or repeats ugly gossip about the Other. If my group does these actions, I am implicated in the karma.
For example, if my family group has historically been enemies with a certain group and if I participate in that Dis-Unity of Mind, I involve myself in the effects of that group karma. However, if I say, "NO! This stops with me," and I actively remove myself from the actions of my group, over time the karma of the group will affect me less and less.
We need to do our best to NOT identify with any group, be it race, religion, gender, nationality, class, etc. The Spiritual Science of Kriya Yoga is predicated on the Laws of Karma and the individual's ability to take responsibility for solving one's own karma. That's challenging enough without adding in the karmic acts of group members!
Opposing something is a guaranteed way to magnetize thought-forms to your mind! Removing oneself from group karma requires skillful means. As with any shift in consciousness, it starts with waking up and choosing a new direction, a new vibration found perhaps in meditation. Reflect deeply upon what it would take to de-magnetize inherited familial thought-forms. Find Wise Ones to help you learn new skillful means, new ways of thinking and being.
Name it, claim it and release it. As Oprah would say, What I know for sure is that I choose to let go of ancestral group karma, starting now!
My spiritual teacher, Swami Pranananda, says it is simple to stop the cycle of Group Karma that comes through the family. First, we have to wake up to how we unconsciously identify with these habitual thought-forms. We need to bring them out into the Light and look at them carefully and take responsibility for the ways they live in our own minds.
For example, think about the patterns in your early life and what you know of your parents' lives. How do these patterns live on in your life now?
- What were the patterns of interactions between the men and women in the family. Was there emotional or physical or psychological abuse/neglect of any kind? A victim, rescuer, abuser cycle going on?
- How were decisions made? Who had control/power over whom? How did the children fit into the power dynamics?
- What about attitudes and practices involving money?
- What about your need for approval and how it imprisons you? Did you see that growing up?
- How about substance abuse, with food, drugs or drink? Overspending?
Choose the pattern that has been most harmful and then, with awareness, vow that this pattern stops with your generation, with your day to day thoughts, words and actions! Seek support for your vow.
Continue to strive to create the broadest Horizon of Awareness about life and constantly observe the pattern of your thoughts. Then detach! Remember you are not your thoughts or your personality! You are part of all of Life, not apart from Life.
The nature of the human mind is to be judgmental. It's a super highway to Dis-Unity full of costly tolls! It seems to me that Becoming a Wise Elder for the Seventh Generation starts with waking up to the nature of my human mind, and taking the necessary approach to correcting it. These days my mind responds best to gentle creative reminders of my essential Unity with all of Life.
Especially in times when I'm feeling vulnerable in the midst of old hurtful family dynamics, I turn to my practices of cultivating Beauty, (Self) Compassion and Forgiveness. Heart-Talks with my Beloved Harry and intimate girlfriends, time alone, playing with our sweet puppy, enjoying Nature and making Art are all excellent vehicles for these practices. Who better than a puppy to remind me of my Unity with all of Life?
How about you? What practices of Unity and Sustainability do you wish to transmit to the future generations?
I invite you to reflect on becoming the Wise Elder future generations need you to be--whether today, 5, 10, 50 or 175 years from now. As the magnificent Alice Walker writes, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
Thank you for reading, sharing and commenting on my blog, beautiful friends. If you'd like to send me a more personal message, please use this page https://www.martibeddoe.com/contact/
Keep on loving up one another and enjoy the glories of the Summer Solstice next week if you are in the Northern Hemisphere! Sending each of you all my purple love!