March 14, 2011

The Simple Way

I want you all to know about the Thirteen indigenous Grandmothers, and especially Grandmother Rita. The Grandmothers come from all over the world: Alaska, Nepal, Brazil, Gabon (Africa), Arizona, South Dakota, Oregon, New Mexico, Montana, and Tibet. Thirteen grandmothers in their 70's and 80's who have been brought together by the movement of Life and the prophecies of their various traditions. Grandmother Rita is in Alaska, and of Yupik, Athabascan, and Russian descent. She is proud of her diverse heritage.

The grandmothers teach simply about reciprocity, respect, caring for the earth, peace, social justice, and honoring the water. The Shift Network is hosting a long-distance learning opportunity with them in which I am participating. Each week for six weeks one or two or three of the grandmothers teach a group of over 500 people, from all over the world, via phone. Although many of the grandmothers have cell phones just like I do, sometimes the grandmother has to walk to a "station" in order to make the international call, having no phone of her own. Sometimes, as in the case of Grandmother Rita, someone in the family is coming home for dinner while she is talking on the family phone, and the dog starts barking a greeting for the world to hear. They are homey lessons.

One of the participants asked Grandmother Rita how to help others understand the importance of being harmonious with each other, how to stop fighting and creating so much discord, how to understand the world, basically, the way she understands the world. Grandmother Rita told a story. When she was three years old her mother took her to a Montessori school in Seattle. It was the first time she had ever been away from her village. She was scared. Her mother told her that when she walked among people who were not like her, to say nothing. Just watch, and try to understand.

When asked whether we should get involved in politics, or not, to effect change in the world Grandmother Rita said simply that she did not know. And then she sang The Magic Penny, a song written in the 1950's by Malvina Reynolds:

Love is something if you give it away,

Give it away, give it away

Love is something if you give it away

You end up having more.

It's just like a magic penny

Hold it tight and you won't have any.

Lend it, spend it, and you'll have so many

They'll roll all over the floor!

Grandmother Rita is a tribal doctor, a healer, and here's another thing Grandmother Rita teaches. This one really speaks to me, given my history with physical illness. She says – and oh, how I know the truth of this!—that unattended emotions become physical, and that the unattended physical becomes emotional. Healing is about peeling, she says, peeling away the layers of emotions that have become densified as physical illness. But she follows that with saying that the secret is that she doesn't know anything. She doesn't know what she does to help you heal. She's just your friend.

They are simple and profound teachings with the power to change the world – to keep your voice quiet and try to understand when you do not know the ways of those you walk among. To give and so receive. To peel away that which is no longer needed. To walk humbly. To be a friend. They sound very like the simple teachings of a carpenter I know.

The Voice agrees.


To find out more about the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, go to

No comments: