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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 11/27/17

Utilizing Indigenous Thought to Cope in the Age of Trump

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3) Ceremony and alternative consciousness are vital for internalizing Nature's wisdom.

4) Place and its inhabitants are sacred teachers.

5) Complementarity describes Nature and is essential for a balanced life.

6) Generosity and courage are preeminent virtues observable in Nature.

7) The highest authority comes from honest reflection on lived experience.

8) Language (words) and music have vibrational frequencies that prompt diligent attention.

How can we use these precepts to challenge the problems wrought by the dominant worldview? In order to move into authentic ways of being in the world, we can start by considering these five Indigenous ways of thinking and doing, which contrast with dominant worldview-based practices:

Alternative Consciousness. It's required for deep transformation. There are many ways to achieve it, but believing in new and appropriate images deeply while in light trance states can override previous unintentional beliefs that continue to cause us to live against our own logic. Traditional societies knew that harmful behaviors often stemmed from unconscious beliefs and actions that could be reversed via trance-based learning. When you are out of balance; when anger lasts for more than a few minutes; when you behave or react in a way that seems to bring on stress; when you feel you are avoiding movements on behalf of your highest potential; when a relationship is not working, there are often unconscious belief systems operating. Trance-based learning can help us overcome harmful unconscious beliefs, making us more capable of addressing the inequities and ecological damage in our world today.

Questioning Fear. Ask what possible fear relates to problematic events, actions, attitudes or behaviors. The dominant worldview perspective is to avoid, dismiss or deny it. Move to the Indigenous perspective that sees fear as a catalyst for practicing a virtue, such as courage, generosity, honesty, patience, fortitude or humility. Then, imagine yourself practicing that virtue until, by taking appropriate action, you become fearless by fully trusting the universe.

Questioning Authority. Closely related to fear is the idea of authority. Dominant culture is hierarchy-driven and external authority guides too much of our behavior. Get in touch with the position, beliefs and feelings you have about the issue at hand. Ask yourself: From whose authority did this position originate? Then, use a strategy such as self-hypnosis to erase all forms of external authority from the picture, dismissing previous ones entirely and basing your new thoughts on only an honest reflection on your lived experience and complementary attitude.

Words. Get in touch with all the words you use, especially self-talk, to describe the situation. Analyze them for how accurate and truthful they really are. Our Indigenous ancestors lived at a time when words were considered sacred. Find the best ways to honestly phrase the situation so you can better process it. Carefully listen to the words of others without being "hypnotized" by them. Use life experience, intuition, critical thinking and diverse research to come to truthfulness.

Nature. In our original ways of thinking, other-than-human (or greater-than-human) entities were our teachers. Anthropocentrism did not exist. We were intricately part of the Natural world. We can still learn from other-than-humans. In practice, these can be pets, insects, plants, parks, rivers, mountains. When an issue arises, consider it in relation to these other-than-humans. Allow yourself to continue to watch for other aspects of Nature as keys to a new realization as relates to the issue. Use ceremony with plants like pine, cedar, sage or sweet grass to evoke images of other-than- or greater-than-human life forms. Such ceremonies can truly continue to help you embrace the unknown. Balance these ceremonies with discourse, knowing that discourse tends to remove the mysterious. All answers reside somewhere in what remains of the natural landscape in which you dwell.

As we move forward in the era of Trump, facing vast structural problems, let us remember that Nature is and always will be the ultimate teacher if we heed it accordingly.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

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Wahinkpe Topa (Four Arrows) is a professor at Fielding Graduate University. Former Director of Education at Oglala Lakota College, he is a made-relative of the Oglala and a Sun Dancer. Selected by AERO for their text Turning Points as one of 27 (more...)
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