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Return to Our Roots and Connect

lodgesThere has been so much discussion about the tragedy in Connecticut and who or what is to blame. I think if we can blame someone or something we believe it helps bring order to this state of confusion. I think we all know it is a complex problem with no easy solutions. I noticed as I was looking at the spelling of the state of Connecticut that the first letters spell “connect” and last letters spell “cut”. I believe that understanding the importance of connection is the beginning of the solution. We have cut our connection in this society. Regardless of your lineage we all are descendants of tribal society. We have strayed far from our tribal roots. I say “we” because I know I have.

In tribal society everyone depends upon each other for their very survival. We talk about all our modern advancements and yes these things have made life easier. We need to see what we have lost in all these advancements we have lost our connection. We longer see the need for each other to survive. Perhaps we don’t need each other for our food and shelter like our tribal ancestors did but we do need each other for our spiritual survival.

I read in the newspaper this morning, a neighbor who lived two doors down from the young man who killed all those beautiful children and teachers, he said he did not know the family at all. This is not surprising we are living in neighborhoods for years, our homes, where we dwell, and we do not know our neighbors. It is so easy to do, we are busy, so busy, our kids are busy, we no longer make the time to connect with our neighbors. I see people running from this function to that function they might have three engagements to run kids to and from in one evening after school and I wonder what are they seeking for their kids for themselves.

When I was growing up in South Dakota I played every sport offered and the ones I was not playing in I was cheerleading. I do not remember running around like kids do today. I practiced after school for an hour and then walked home and still had plenty of time to play with the neighbor kids before suppertime. I do not remember this hectic schedule and pace of kids today, its crazy enough adults are going at this pace but we are now inflicting this craziness on our children. I believe our kids need to connect with each other and with nature, these are the skills they need to survive. They need to climb trees, run barefoot in the grass and they need to know their neighbors. They need to feel connected and they need to learn to connect with others.

I have a neighbor who is so deeply rooted in connection she has literally dragged me along for the ride. I thank her and bless her, it is because of her I can say I know my neighbors. Some I know more than others, but I know my neighbors. Knowing my neighbors helped me grow spiritually and it has helped me survive. Because I know my neighbors we ask each other for help when we need it, we share our burdens. We care for each others kids, we take care of each others animals, we bring dinner to each other when we are sick, we comfort each other during loss. The most important impact of knowing my neighbors, I care about them, I have a better understanding of what they are going through and I love them. Do we always get along? Of course not, its human nature to have differences but those difference are easier to work out when you are already connected and communicate.

Am I saying if that neighbor had known that young man it would have changed the outcome, no, what I am saying is that if we are going to thrive as a society we need to go back to our tribal roots and start caring about each other. My neighbor’s struggle is my struggle, my neighbor’s joy is my reason to celebrate. If we connect with each other and care about each other at home, where we dwell, we create a community, a tribe.

One thing that seems to be a common denominator in all these shootings is the perpetrator tends to be male and is very often identified as a loner. When a single family has to bear the burden of a tormented or challenged soul it can be too much. If a family is supported by a community that burden is shared. Our boys need strong honorable male role models, if that person does not dwell in your home that person could be next door or likely in your neighborhood. Our boys need connection, they need understanding, they need help expressing themselves, as boys do, physically without causing harm to others.

I cannot judge this situation from so far away. I can only share what I believe to be a problem we must address for our very survival. We are so busy being angry at each other because all we see are differences and that makes us afraid. Most of the things we do not agree on are manifestations of modern society. I believe if you take two people who are on completely opposite sides of gun control, political parties, abortion or any other divisive topic and you discuss love, those differences fade away and connection is born. Who is not in favor of love? Who does not want to be loved? Who does not have love within them? You see, the things we are debating they are a red herring, a distraction, from what is so and what we really need to see. What we need to see, discuss and manifest is connection. We need to begin where we live, connect with your neighbors, go back to your tribal roots, with connection a bond is created and from there love will grow. I know it will not solve all our problems but it is a start and it is something we are all capable of doing.

My heart is heavy for the profound loss in Connecticut, their loss is our loss. I pray for the families and I pray for all of us so we can connect and possibly help the other tortured souls out there and avoid this kind of tragedy from happening again.

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” – Herman Melville

The Beauty and Balance of the Circle

I noticed yesterday while I was meeting with a person I had just met for the first time how our connections with people are like a series of Venn Diagrams. Do you remember doing those in school?  You would have a series of things and you would draw a circle then list a set of things you would then draw another circle and list a second set of things and where the circles intersected you would list those things common to both sets of data. It’s about common ground and connection.

As I was sitting there with my new acquaintance I was very aware of how many of our circles intersected, business experience, fishing, leadership philosophy, and current business status. As I drove home from our breakfast meeting I also noticed how the duration of our connection with people are also like a Venn Diagram, we have all heard the saying you know people for a season, a reason or a lifetime. Well in a Venn Diagram way I was thinking how with some people your circles may barely touch, those are the people you see as part of your day but perhaps there is not a meaningful connection, maybe they are checking you out at the grocery store, you experience each other and are inexplicably connected at that moment in time, however, once it passes you may not cross paths again. Then there are people in your life where your circles are solidly connected, your family is a good example, your kids, your parents, your spouse. What is fascinating to me are the people you meet who fall in between those two extremes.

Yesterday was a great example, I am meeting this person and I see the common ground we have, yet I am not sure what will happen with time, will our circles intersect? Perhaps and to what degree, right now its part of the great mystery. I have learned not to force these things anymore and to let things unfold in a more natural way. Not to say I sit back and do nothing but rather I understand my intention and purpose in life; connection and inspiration and while in action things will grow from there just as effortlessly as a seed sprouts.

This past weekend I experienced a beautiful connection involving my daughter and her grandparents. It was an amazing and unexpected intersection of circles that evolved genuinely and naturally.

I love the symbolism of the circle it has no beginning and no end. It’s no mistake that I had this epiphany of the Venn Diagram image and connection to life, I attended the Mending Medicine retreat last weekend facilitated by John Two-Hawks. John shared with us how to live a balanced and more harmonious life and used many examples from his Lakota culture particularly the Medicine Wheel or the Sacred Hoop. John pointed out that most indigenous people around the world have a Medicine Wheel or Sacred Hoop image as a core part of their belief system. He also pointed out how modern thinking has gradually developed into a linear system of thinking, which requires a hierarchy, in other words rather than sitting down as equals we have created a system where someone is always above or below the other.

As an engineer I am profoundly aware of the balance of a circle versus a linear design and find it very interesting that as a society, we have “evolved” in such a way that we have actually moved farther away from the perfection that nature has revealed to us and created a system that is more and more out of balance and out of harmony. It’s so simple yet it’s not easy.

I had the wonderful opportunity to celebrate a good friend’s birthday last night, as we all enjoyed each others company we could not help but discuss the current event unfolding, the national election. We discussed the current tumultuous state of our political system and how can we create more harmony among our leaders. So much valuable energy is being wasted on discord. She said the system is such that people from each party sit across the aisle from each other when in reality they should be sitting next to each other. She suggested a seating chart organized by States or an alphabetical seating chart but democrats and republicans would sit side by side. She also said they should break bread with each other and often. She said it sounds so simple but felt very confident this would lead to a more balanced and harmonious approach to governing our country. She basically described creating a circle rather than the current linear system or approach, where one feels superior to the other. So beautiful!

I believe we all have the knowledge within us to know what will create balance and harmony, the choice is ours to listen to our inner wisdom or to succumb to the external influences that drown out the ancient wisdom we all carry inside us.

As you go through your day notice the circles in your life, where you have disharmony or imbalance let the circle inspire you to create harmony and balance.

You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours….

Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. – Black Elk, Oglala Lakota Sioux Wichasha Wakan

The Bundle of Sticks

            There is a wonderful fable by Aesop called The Bundle of Sticks. 

Unity = Strength

A farmer, who had a quarrelsome family, after having tried in vain to reconcile them by words, thought he might more readily prevail by an example. So he called his sons and bade them lay a bundle of sticks before him. Then having tied them into a bundle, he told the lads, one after the other, to take it up and break it. They all tried, but tried in vain.

 Then untying the bundle, he gave them the sticks to break one by one. This they did with the greatest ease. Then said the father, “Thus you, my sons, as long as you remain united, are a match for all your enemies; but differ and separate, and you are undone.”

 I love this fable and it is so true. Over the years I have witnessed the power, strength and boundless possibility of unity, I have also witnessed when the bundle is broken, divided, and we are left weakened and vulnerable. My greatest example of this fable in action is my family over the last two years.  We were working as a bundle, no doubt about it, and we are still in a tight bundle and as strong as ever. I recognized this strength in numbers, as we navigated cancer, caregiving and ultimately loss. This unity has inspired me to keep my other bundles tied tightly. Those bundles or connections are; my friends, my neighbors, and my co-workers.

I wake up every morning and give thanks for all the gifts and blessings I have been given and all my bundles are high on the list. Those areas in my life where I feel like a single-stick; vulnerable and weak, I am working towards creating more unity and tying a bundle. We all have those areas where unity seems a bit more challenging and all we can do is recognize it and take action from there. For my action, and I feel a bit like the little engine that could, I have been reconnecting and reaching out to friends from my past and people I have wronged to clean up old messes. It was really scary to reach out to people whom I had things I needed to clean up, and honestly the result has been beyond my imagination. I definitely have not batted a thousand but I have created unity with several people I wronged in the past. I am very humbled and blessed by their compassion to forgive and their capacity to love. So never give up on unity. 

Anyone who knows me from my childhood would be amused at the notion that I see strength in numbers, I was a very independent little thing. I liked to do things my own way, by myself. I remember my goal from a very early age was to educate myself enough so I could get a decent job and totally rely on myself, I did not want anyone to take care of me or be responsible for me. There is absolutely nothing wrong with self-sufficiency, and I must confess I tend to do too much for my kids and need to let them do more for themselves, but while teaching responsibility one can also teach unity.

I was talking to a friend who has two boys and he was basically describing to me how important it was to him that his boys had a tight bond. He has taught them to never disparage the other in public and to always stick up for each other. I thought this was very intriguing because I feel the same way but never set out with the intent to teach this to my kids, I have just been reacting to behavior that does not support this philosophy.  Now, I realize as I write this how absurd that sounds and my strategy was flawed, but at least I recognized it was flawed, ok. It is kind of funny, we have things we want or desire and instead of educating ourselves or others towards that end, we simply react if we don’t get what we want. Well back to my friend’s boys, they got into a little trouble and basically would not nark on each other to dad, they backed each other up. They did not tell a lie, they just would not tell on their brother. My friend basically let them off the hook, he felt it was more important that he reward their unity than to punish their infraction. I took his lesson to heart. I am extremely close to my brother and I want my children to have that same close relationship, while I did not start out as early as my friend teaching unity, I am now.

When I see siblings that are treating each other badly it always makes me sad, when my kids treat each other poorly it hurts my heart. What I really dislike is to see parents pairing with one child over another, or disparaging their children in public, oh it hurts me right to the core. It feels like a little bit of the universe dies when that happens.  And in a sense it does, there is a loss of connection and energy that feeds our universe.

My dad’s family was a tight bundle, in spite of, or possibly due to the fact that, growing up they lived in a very dysfunctional situation. My dad would not disparage his parents nor his siblings, my dad would not disparage my mom even after their acrimonious divorce. He did not want to affect our unity. I remember hearing my dad talk about his sister and brother’s and you could feel the unity and strength of his ties to them. While I may not have mastered this skill as well as my dad I know he planted the seeds with me because I feel it to my core when I see unity and when I see division, particularly in families.

We have so many horrendous role models out there in the public arena untying bundles left and right (pun intended), that many of us need to remember the result is a weakened society and a weakened universe. We need unity for strength, and it really begins at home. We need to model unity at home if we do not have unity at home how can we have it a work, in government, in our place of worship, in sports or anywhere else. Share this fable with your kids, grandkids, cousins, nieces or nephews, what a marvelous and powerful gift of love and unity.

 “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

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