In 1993, I sat in on a meditation cushion in a musty domed tent in the Green Mountains of Vermont. There on a raised dais in front of us sat a Native American woman with tawny, golden skin, dark hair, sparkling eyes, a gracious manner, and a melodious speaking voice.
I was immediately entranced by this beautiful and elegant human being named Venerable Dhyani Ywahoo and the dancing words that fell from her mouth. Her teachings felt ancient, deep, and true. She is the keeper of an ancient wisdom lineage of the Tsalagi, or Cherokee, people and is also a respected teacher in the Drikung Kagyu and Nyingma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. She also founded the Sunray Meditation Society in the Green Mountains of Vermont.
Ven. Dhyani taught us the Tsalagi practices of sacred songs, visualization, prayer and affirmation to bring about inner and outer peace. We learned how to pray in a Native way—standing up and moving sunwise to each of the 4 directions of the compass—a Native American Medicine Wheel—starting in the North and then ending honoring Mother Earth and Grandfather Sky.
But it wasn’t just the mystical, heart-opening, earth-based dimension of what Venerable carried that was important me—myself a lover of Mother Earth and the divinity with her; it was how the teachings called forth our responsibility to maintain a creative, powerful, peaceful, and interconnected relationship with all beings. Though I did not have these words back then, what she taught was the essence of Sacred Activism for Peacemaking. Our spirituality must always be in service of the world.
Prior to my early 30s, as a White woman, it would have never occurred to me that my life’s work and spiritual path would be anchored into Native American spirituality. Yet, as my journey unfolded, synchronicities and unexpected meetings kept drawing me deeper and deeper in. In particular, over the past 15 years, I have been a student of the sacred teachings and cosmovision of the mesa tradition taught by Q’ero wisdomkeepers from the Andes in Peru. The mesa is a medicine bundle or portable altar that generates powerful light frequencies of healing, peace and love for oneself and others.
These luminous, indigenous pathways of the divine-in-action have been the greatest love affair of my life. I often say that Native American spirituality saved my life. It gave me powerful tools to heal my trauma, to grow inner peace, to expand and deepen my intimacy with the Earth, to help others transmute and heal their wounds, and to take all of this experience to step into passionate service as a peacemaker seeking to end violence. I am deeply grateful.
Native Americans have experienced and continue to experience violence and oppression. They have had to hide their spiritual and cultural ways for centuries and have seen their traditions, cultures and languages destroyed, undermined, misrepresented and denigrated by Europeans and their descendants, even as their lands have been and continue to be stolen. Due to cultural invasions, Christianization and the pressures brought on by discrimination, even Native people have forgotten and left behind their ancestral ways.
Yet the good news for the world is that nothing was forever lost in the wake of ongoing genocide, violence, enslavement, and imprisonment in reservations (concentration camps). Thanks to the courage, ingenuity and creativity of many, these traditions survive. Some, like my Q’ero teacher, Puma Fredy Singona Quispe and Venerable Dhyani, have been called by the ancestors and spirits to offer their ancient wisdom ways to the wider world. The time has come for these precious gems of wisdom to assist our ailing planet in this intense and potent time of chaos and transition.
Therefore, I consider the wisdom and practices of these Native American pathways of light to be central to Sacred Activism for Peacemaking. While I know that some Native Americans object to those of us of European descent and non-Natives who follow a Native-inspired spiritual path, I have made peace with the road that Creator-Spirit has laid out for me. If I had resisted it, I would be an incomplete, perhaps even shattered human being. By whatever name I use that resonates with the students and clients I serve in this westernized society—shamanism, energy healing, Native American—I embrace the crystal clarity of the gift of personal and global healing they offer. I trust my teachers’ own calling to go beyond tribal and cultural boundaries to speak to humanity, as a whole.
Hence, given my unusual calling to and lifelong love of these beautiful pathways to peace, I have been happy to see indigenous wisdom traditions and teachers more recently being recognized for their powerful contributions not only to the spiritual deepening and healing of a worldwide community of seekers, but also that their messages about how a personal spiritual practice must be anchored in service to family, community and the planet are being foregrounded and heard.
May I continue to vigorously pay forward what has been so generously given by these amazing Native American Peacemakers. May all of us fulfill with our thoughts, words and actions the creation of a new earth of love, peace, compasion, and unity in diversity 7 generations into the future and beyond.
Aho. Wado. May it be so.
Rachel Mann, PhD is a sacred activist, social scientist, healer, and spiritual mentor. She provides shamanic energy healings, an intensive 1-1 Mentoring Program, and offers courses and retreats supporting passionate individuals with a vision to integrate the wisdom gained through their own healing and spiritual study into creative service to others as a healer/therapist, minister. spiritual teacher, writer, artist, and/or socially conscious and spiritually awake entrepreneur. Through consulting and programs, she also provides businesses, NGOs, and nonprofits wishing to expand and anchor into the sacred values of positive inclusion, compassion, and a renewed, spiritual ethics with consulting and programs. Find out more at rachelmannphd.com.