Climate for Change, July 20, 2020
Making up a new cosmology and a new biscuit recipe – at the same time
At the beginning of her talk Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change
Sherri Mitchell says that some years ago, at the request of her elders “I began moving out into the world in a way that I had never been before. I had always been an activist; I had always been outspoken about injustice; I had always been outspoken about racial issues, indigenous rights issues, environmental issues – but at the request of those elders I began going out in the world as who I am, fully embodied. I was no longer trying to live individual lives; I was allowed, given permission by them, to live one life. I think that so often, because of the society we live in, we think that we have to be different people in different scenarios, so we’re one person when we’re at home with our family, we’re somebody else when we’re applying for a job (we want to look good on paper), we’re somebody else when we’re around our spiritual community, we’re somebody else when we’re out with our friends and nobody’s looking; and if you’re one of that generation that swipes left or right then you’re a different person then as well. That’s part of the mainstream society’s way of thinking – that we have to be broken down, fragmented, and commodified into saleable parts.”
“There was a period of time when I bought into that nonsense, and thought that I have to be this person here – and this person here – and this person here – and this whole idea of wearing many hats was one that was so broadly accepted that I didn’t really think a lot of it until I really started to get to know who I was, and I started to see the fractures within my own being in relation to having to be fragmented in that way. So when the elders said that we want you to take these teachings that you carry within you, and we want you to start sharing them in everything that you do, we want you to step into this role that we’re asking you to take on, when they offered me my name Weh’na Ha’mu Kwasset [She Who Brings the Light] and I humbly accepted that name – I was responsible for taking on that role.”
“And so what I realised at that time was that this was actually giving me permission to live one life. It was giving me permission to bring all of who I am into everything that I do, so that I could show up in every moment of my life, whether I’m dealing with a legal issue, an environmental issue, a social justice issue, a spiritual issue… I could be present fully embodied as who I am in totality. What an incredible gift.”
At this point Sherri suggests to her audience that they give each other the same permission, by everyone saying to the person next to them “You have permission to be all of who you are.” When they have done this, she continues: “And it’s a terrifying prospect at first, to think about what does it mean to be all of who I am in the world. We can’t become all of who we are in the world if we don’t heal the illusion of separation that has been ingrained within us.”
When I heard that, I thought – I know that feeling of presenting different aspects of oneself to different ‘audiences’, and of being anxious (maybe not terrified) about presenting the ‘wrong’ aspect at times. I have felt it in setting up this website and blog. There is the political me, the gardening me, the writing me, the cooking me, the family and friends me, the choir singer me, the me who has these health issues but not those ones… and so on it goes. But it’s all one me, after all.
It’s the same whole me who listens to Sherri Mitchell say to her audience that they should turn to the person next to them and say “You have permission to be all of who you are.”
So today I took the gift which Sherri passed on in that talk, and gave myself permission to make up a new biscuit recipe – and to think about the cosmology behind her words and the words of the two other indigenous Americans her talk led me to – at the same time. The biscuits turned out fine. The recipe for a new cosmology, which includes the insights from indigenous traditions all around the world and from the new forms of non-dualist, non-reductionist, non-separationist forms of scientific inquiry also being practised all around the world, will take a lot more thought and effort. But giving those who want to adopt it the permission to be whole, to be all of who they are and not split into social roles for the convenience of the Market-State, will surely be part of it.