It seems that there are many people these days
who are trying to find a spirituality that they can believe in.
For whatever reason, we are beginning to pay more attention to
our spirit and to our direction in life. Many of us have found
ourselves drawn to the First Nations beliefs, perhaps because
they are seen as clean and pure, and based on the simpler times
that we all seem to miss.
As we make our way along the Red Road, with luck we are led to a
person who has been given the wisdom and knowledge to be a
teacher. We call these people Elders, and from them we begin to
learn the ways and traditions that form the heart of First
Nations beliefs. While these Elders generally do not think of
themselves as anything special, they are usually highly regarded
and treated with great respect.
For some of us, however, these early times can be dangerous.
Being human, most of us have a desire to be respected by the
people around us. When we see the respect being given to our
Elders, we may begin to hope that, someday, we may earn that
respect for ourselves. We try to learn as much as we can as
quickly as we can, hoping to impress people with our wisdom. We
forget that knowledge of facts is not the same as wisdom, which
only comes from a lifetime of reflecting on these facts.
The danger is greatest at the time when we realize that there
are people who share our road that know even less than we do.
These people may be easily impressed by the tiny amount of
knowledge that we carry. Such people might even mistake that
knowledge for wisdom, and we may find ourselves receiving some
of that respect that we crave. We may find that we enjoy the
taste of that respect, and our egos may even lead us to think of
ourselves as Elders... and the trap is sprung!
It is important to understand what an Elder is. Aboriginal
traditions hold the elderly in high regard, because a long life
full of experience leads to wisdom. But an Elder in the
spiritual sense is not just old; today an elderly person may
have no knowledge whatsoever of spirituality. While such a
person may have valuable wisdom in other areas of life, they
obviously cannot be a spiritual Elder. A real Elder carries
facts about their traditions AND the wisdom that comes from long
study and practice of those traditions. However, when you are
just starting out on the path, it can be hard to tell the
difference. Those who are impressionable can be fooled by an
older person with a small amount of knowledge, claiming to be an
Another very popular claim is to be a Healer. True Healers are
those who are given the ability to Heal others using only their
own energies and resources. Such people are extremely rare:
perhaps a handful walk the earth today. My wife and I do not
know of any, and probably neither do you. If you know someone
who is claiming that they are a Healer, rest assured that they
are either lying or deluded... true Healers never advertise,
because they know that the people who need them will be brought
to them, quietly and without fuss. They do not seek recognition,
because they are only too aware of the heavy burden of
responsibility they carry, and they do not wish to add to it.
Finally, there are all the self-proclaimed Visionaries. At best,
these people learn from real Seers, then pass on the visions as
their own. At worst, they will invent any vision that will
impress their audience. Once again, if the person brags of it,
then it is not so. True Seers do not advertise, because they do
not need to. Again, those who need their help will be brought to
them, and they know it. They never seek the spotlight.
The lure of prestige and notoriety can be hard to resist. I am
saddened that there are people within our own circle of friends
who have started to call themselves Elders, and pretend to carry
far more knowledge than they actually have. There is one who has
appointed himself a spiritual leader, and has created a
following of people who have virtually no knowledge of
tradition. He tells them that they are Elders as well. There is
another who claims to be a Healer, and performs smudging and
purification ceremonies for others. Because she has not learned
the proper use and purposes of sacred medicines, she has no
understanding of the danger this poses for both herself and for
the people she tries to help. There are still others who ask
questions of Elders, then pass on the answers to other people
claiming to have received them direct from the spirits. We call
this 'riding someone else's tobacco,' and it is a simple attempt
to gain notoriety at the expense of others. In each case, these
people have brought a great deal of trouble into their own lives
by doing these things. However, despite these warnings, their
egos lead them to continue to misguide others, and they cause
much suffering as a result.
Each of us has a best possible path to walk, and each of us is
here for some specific purpose. For most of us, our walk is all
about learning. While we may not see this as significant, the
Creator does not make mistakes: each life interacts with many
others, so each one is as important as any other. Ignoring our
path and trying to do something more spectacular simply wastes a
lifetime, and possibly endangers ourselves and others. While a
person's life is their own, to waste if they so choose, causing
someone else to waste or misuse their life is perhaps the vilest
and most disgusting thing that one human can do to another.
It is time for all the pedestals to be torn down, and for each
of us to walk the paths we were intended to walk. We must push
aside our egos, and listen to the spirits and to the quiet voice
of our own hearts. To do any less is to break faith with
ourselves, and with the spirits who agreed to help and guide us.
Let the true Elders to do the teaching. Let the Healers do the
Healing. Let the Seers do the Seeing. Be content that your life,
lived as it supposed to be lived, is as important and necessary
as that of any other person. Learn, love, and be humble.
All my relations...