indigenous communities, They're Waiting For Us, Stephen Gray, Noam Chomsky

They’re Waiting for Us (to return to our senses)

I had recently made a few notes with this title “They’re Waiting for Us” in mind. It feels like a developing “meme” (I hope that’s a sufficiently charged word for it) that is beginning to gain a stronger foothold in the consciousness of people in the so-called modern cultures. I’d venture to suggest it might turn out to be the defining meme for this time.

It’s becoming increasingly clear to more of us that we of these dominant, technological cultures are the prodigal sons and daughters who have wandered far from home and forgotten who we are and where we came from. What is becoming just as clear is that for humanity to avoid an extremely dark future, a great many of us are going to have to understand this meme at a deep and passionately motivating level.

I felt prompted to proceed with this idea drifting through my mind when I read an article and interview with Noam Chomsky on Alternet shortly before sitting down to write this.

What I usually see from Mr. Chomsky is severe and sometimes disheartening critiques of the corporate and governmental power elites, so I was surprised that he used the phrase “hopeful developments” and followed that with statements like, “Indigenous communities have begun to find a voice for the first time in countries with large indigenous populations . . . ” and, “All over the world, it’s the indigenous communities trying to hold us back [from self-destruction]: first nations in Canada, indigenous people in Bolivia, aborigines in Australia, tribal people in India. It’s phenomenal all over the world that those who we call ‘primitive’ are trying to save those of us who we call ‘enlightened’ from total disaster,”

A Renewed Ancient Vision Rising Up

When I wrote “They” in the title of this post, that’s who I was referring to, those you might call ancestral cultures, traditional indigenous cultures, or, as some say, the Earth peoples. This is not, by the way, about naively romanticizing and idealizing these cultures. All societies have problems and as many of us are all too cognizant of, devastation on multiple levels of indigenous communities everywhere has been nothing short of tragic. However, I think what Mr. Chomsky is pointing out is that there remains at least a thin thread of connection in many of those communities to their ancient relationship to the land and the Spirit, to everything in the web of life, and that there’s a determined and visionary rising-up occurring.

The rascally mystic songwriter Bob Dylan wrote a song over 50 years ago called “The Times They Are a Changing” with the line “the first ones now shall later be last.” Indigenous peoples around the world have been crushed and left behind by the machinery of the dominant cultures. Before the arrival of the Europeans some within those communities had strong premonitions of a coming 500 year dark age.

But the severely disadvantaged position of those indigenous communities has now given some of them a powerful clear-eyed outsider view of the prodigal wanderers, a recognition of the truth of what has happened on this planet during that 500 year epoch, and a marrow-held understanding of what needs to change. As planetary conditions deteriorate in multiple spheres, perhaps urgent necessity will push forward and empower our best ideas and the natural order of things will begin to reassert itself.

An anecdote from Eliot Cowan’s book “Plant Spirit Medicine” sums this understanding up succinctly. As Mr. Cowan writes:

“At one point I led a group to a Huichol village [in Mexico], a place where most visitors see poverty. An older Huichol woman asked, ‘Where are those people from?’
‘Most are from the United States.’
‘Oh, those poor, poor people. If they are going to survive, they will have to go back to the past. And when they do, here we will be.’ ”

Slowing Down and Living Simply

Buddhist and other teachings remind us that to wake up from confusion and suffering we need to slow down the speed of mind. We need to settle down and land on the Earth, land on “what is” as they say. It seems we of the dominant cultures have to a great degree filled our minds and bodies with needs and beliefs and restless energies that cause us to overlook and ignore the simplicity of life. This is what the Earth people often say, like, “You ‘westerners’ think way too much. You don’t know how to be here right now. You’re always after something to fill the hole that can’t be filled.” Life can be lived in simplicity, appreciating every step of the way. An old Native wise man said we should make every step on this earth sacred. We moderns seem (I’m generalizing of course) to have no idea of how impoverished we’ve become and how rich our daily existence can be in this mode of simplicity and relatedness.

Here’s another apropo anecdote from the Eliot Cowan book. He was interviewing a Native elder named Grandma Bertha Grove. She told Eliot about something an old man had told her. In her words, “He said, ‘Sun comes up, we get up, do our prayers, and we eat breakfast. Through the day we do what we have to do—go visit people or go work. Then evening comes, sun goes down, we come back home, eat again, talk. Whatever we done all through the day, we talk about it. Then we go to bed, make our prayers again, sleep. Then the sun comes up, we do it again, go through life. We make it hard for our own self ’cause we put in all these worries. We make our own problems. But it’s really simple. You just live. Enjoy yourself.’ That’s what he told me.”

Why am I writing on this subject in a blog on a website called Cannabis and Spirituality? For starters, it’s because sacramental medicine plants like ayahuasca, peyote, psilocybin mushrooms, huachuma, and others, including cannabis, have long histories of use in traditional indigenous cultures for stimulating the awakening process and reconnecting people to unconditioned reality. One morning in the tipi as an all-night Native American Church peyote prayer meeting eased toward its finish, the roadman said to a group of new participants, “You new people might wonder what happened last night. Although you’ll have to discover this on your own I’ll tell you that what you experienced last night was reality.”

Cannabis Can Help Us Attune

Cannabis has the ability to tune people into the moment. When set and setting are supportive, when there’s some discipline to let go of the busy mind, cannabis helps us relax into the moment and appreciate it. It helps us slow down. It reminds us to breathe deeply. It helps us ease out of the stressful mode that plagues so much of so many people’s lives and drives so many to compulsively acquire—wealth, power, security.

I see the influence of cannabis as a retraining process when used in these kinds of mindful, respectful ways. You don’t have to get stoned all the time and in fact indulging continuously can and often does lead to dependence and lack of connection. But over time, the judicious use of the plant can have a cumulative effect of tuning us into the moment so that we can learn to recognize and relax into being right where we are right now, on the Earth, so that we can feel this moment and reconnect to our relatedness.

The ancient wisdom that is so needed now and that is breaking through to more and more willing minds is pointing us toward this reconnection. Cannabis is medicine for the soul. It’s not the goal, it’s an ally, and my friends, we need all the help we can get to turn the self-destructive trajectory of human activity toward the life-saving truth of unconditioned awakened-heart reality.

 

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