It began with silence. Pahan Pte San Win opened the weekend by guiding us through a cleansing ceremony using sage, a sacred medicine used to purify heart, mind, body and spirit. She then spoke of the connection she has with the Ashram and told the story of her vision of a Sundance of Women. The days that followed were full of stories, song and ceremony offered by Pahan and Wanbdi Wakita of Bear Paw Tipi.
The Love & Healing weekend with Pahan and Wanbdi put the ideal of unity into action for me. Here was the Ashram, hosting a workshop with Indigenous elders that affirmed the intention of our new Temple of Light. People came together – learning, listening, connecting. We painted on a canvas that will be sewn into a Thunderbird, a banner to be at the opening of Pahan’s Sundance in August. I added one word, connection, that expresses what I experienced. The lessons of the weekend were powerful. Pahan said that how much we love is all about our own capacity to love and that everyone is loveable. From Wanbdi’s explanation of the Dakota phrase Mitakuye Owas, all my relations, I understood how connection extends to everything around me. And I sensed that something was being conveyed beyond words in the humility and grace with which they offered their tradition. For this opportunity, I say Pidamayapi ye — thank you.
The Love & Healing weekend elder visit was very special. It was meaningful for me to hear and see them share some of the spiritual practices of my culture. I felt proud to see some of the same aspects of my culture that I’ve offered to the Ashram community over my years of living here. As an adult, I’ve been reconnecting to my culture and remembering things I learned growing up. Experiences like Pahan and Wandbi sharing their knowledge show me that the practices are still with me. It feels really good to be where I am and I’m proud to be able to share with others.
My key take away from Love & Healing: A Weekend of Reconciliation is that reconciliation begins within. The healing work required for reconciliation begins with ourselves, our families, our communities and our culture. This is true for those of us who belong to the colonizing culture, as well as those who belong to Indigenous cultures. I was touched by the openness and courage of Pahan and Wanbdi as they shared personal and ancestral stories of loss and trauma as a result of colonization. Pahan’s invitation for us to share our own stories was deeply moving, creating a safe space for me to express my deep sadness at the injustices suffered as result of colonization. I was able to acknowledge feelings of shame knowing that these injustices were committed not only by my culture, but during my lifetime. Facing this uncomfortable aspect of our shared history and expressing my feelings created an opening within me. I’m inspired to learn more about my own history in relation to colonization — both personally, but also ancestrally and culturally. What does it mean to be part of a colonizing culture? How have I or my ancestors benefited from colonization? How have I or my ancestors been oppressed or suffered as a result of colonization? This workshop has shown me that we are all connected, both through our suffering and in our process of healing.
The Devi of speech came to life for me this weekend. The words, prayers, and songs shared by Pahan and Wanbdi had a power — simply listening to them was an act of healing. They spoke from a deeply compassionate and loving place that allowed me to be in that space within myself. It was a real gift!
Bridging traditions, the workshops were a fundraiser for the Sundance of Women, which will be led by Pahan in Manitoba 2017 – 2020. The first Sundance is August 2 – 6, simultaneously with the Ashram’s Temple Celebrations. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.