READING ~ from the wisdom of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers
"Today's civilization has been cut loose from the essential roots that formed humanity," says Grandmother Bernadette.
Those roots, the Grandmothers say, reach deep into the Sacred Universe, the domain of Spirit where feminine and masculine energies are in perfect balance and harmony, and where the unity and connectedness inherent in all sentient beings is revealed. However, in today's world the power of the feminine -- the most potent, loving, and creative of forces on Earth -- is severely suppressed, and if not again honored the imbalance of male and female energies could cause the destruction of humanity, if not the Earth Herself. This female power that sustains the Earth and all Her inhabitants, and that is so essential for the survival of the planet, resides within each one of us, man and woman alike. (Page 133)
Grandmothers Counsel the World; Women Elders Offer Their Vision for Our Planet. By Carol Schaefer with a Foreword by Winona Laduke. Boston: Trumpeter Books, 2006.
READING ~ from the wisdom of Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D.
. . . it is time to acknowledge that women as a gender – as a whole, not every woman, but women generally – have a wisdom that the world needs now. Lots of women are already doing their part. [p.144]
I think that women who were part of the women's movement and now are of crone age, with a mind and a heart not fully employed, may be realizing that they are waiting for an assignment. Idealistic, altruistic, passionate young women are also feeling and responding to the call to activism. For women of any age, an assignment presents itself as an invitation. Your assignment is what you feel it is. It may be an opportunity that you realize is meant for you. It may come to you as an inspiration or urge. The women's movement that changed the world for American women and rippled out to influence the world was the sum of individual women doing whatever they were moved to do, once they became aware of inequality and injustice. The vessel that supported them through their changes and those they brought into the world was their women's group.
I believe that the thought that women together can change the world is emerging into the minds and hearts of many of us, and that the vessel
for personal and planetary evolution is the circle with a spiritual center. P.145
Urgent Message from Mother: Gather the Women, Save the World by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. San Francisco: Conari Press, 2005.
In the fall of 2004, we gathered from all over the world. We are thirteen indigenous Grandmothers. We are from Alaska, North, South, and Central America; Africa; and Asia. We came together at the Tibet House Menla Mountain Retreat center in upstate New York. Within three days we formed a Global Alliance for the good of all beings. Our Council was set in motion by a common vision, prophecies seeded decades ago in many people around the world.
This is Our Mission Statement
We represent a global alliance of prayer, education and healing for our Mother Earth, all Her inhabitants, all the children, and for the next seven generations to come.
We are deeply concerned with the unprecedented destruction of our Mother Earth and the destruction of indigenous ways of life. We believe the teachings of our ancestors will light our way through an uncertain future.
We look to further our vision through the realization of projects that protect our diverse cultures: lands, medicines, language and ceremonial ways of prayer and through projects that educate and nurture our children.
The concept of the Council of elders is not unique. It is a form of governance ruled by a circle rather than by a hierarchy of command. Since the inception of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, numerous elders around the world are gathering their own councils or renewing their ancient tribal circles of leadership. We are witnessing a re-emergence of the voice of the wise ones and elders, the gathering of Councils. The unfolding of their prayers shows us that many councils of elders are emerging, in Europe, Australia and the Middle East, to carry the suffering world out of its misery.
The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers has been working to achieve their mission for more than a decade. The Council is now twelve, as one of these grandmothers has left this life.
It is time that we listen to our grandmothers; to follow their vision and heed their wisdom.
There is a lot to worry about these days. I worry about the loss of unity and the common good. I worry about the loss of human rights. I worry about an economic system that is designed and managed to advantage the already advantaged. I worry about the creeping privatization of our education system. Surely, I worry about a healthcare policy that sees health care is a commodity to be purchased on the open market only by those who can afford to pay for it. All of these things worry me. You can add to this list your own worries and concerns. There are many. I, like you, wish things would move in directions that align more closely with my values and the values of our faith as expressed through our Seven Principles. And so, we work out what to do with the life we have been given.
Two things have a deeper worry for me because I fear that we cannot recover in future years what we sacrifice now. One is our move toward a position of military might and a growing willingness to impose our preferences on others through brute force. The other is our growing disregard for the health and future of our environment and our planet. I do not know if humanity can recover from the directions we appear to be taking now. I do not know whether we will be able to reverse or even slow the path we are taking toward making our planet uninhabitable for many species, including our own.
It is time that we listen to our grandmothers; to follow their vision and heed their wisdom.
Here is what they are telling us.
There is tremendous possibility for healing and reconciliation in feminine wisdom and leadership. This is not to say that we must abandon male energy and spirituality. But hey, let’s be honest – we’ve really managed to overdose on the masculine approach to running things and it’s not going so well just now.
Women and men alike carry both masculine energy and feminine energy, so this is not a battle between men and women. It is not a battle at all. That very language and the imagery of contest and conquest are at the center of what troubles us. We want peace among the peoples of the world and we want to live in balance with Earth which is our only home. Contest and conquest – the use of brute strength and might making right – will not get us where we want to be.
From the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, I offer the circle. The council meets in a circle where each one can see and look into the eyes of each and every other one. There is no head or foot to the circle. There are no corners and no sharp edges. There is a balance and a flow. For too long we have wasted precious energy bickering over who sits where and which place is more favored than any other. We allow a hierarchy of persons and positions to overshadow the contributions and creativity from the many.
When we come together to discuss important things and make important choices and decisions, let us come together as the council of elders who sit in a circle and listen more often than they speak. A council where every voice is heard and respected. A council where tradition and history are honored and where our care for the future is measured to the seventh generation and beyond. When we sit together in a circle and face each other and look into the eyes and hearts of our companions, we are much more likely to work from a place of compassion and generosity. The circle encourages mutual cooperation and may well allow us to turn away from the greed and short term gains that imperil the future of our people, our planet, and our hope for peace.
Jean Shinoda Bolen has been a psychiatrist, Jungian analyst in private practice, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California Medical Center, and an internationally known lecturer. She has written scholarly articles and many books. And now she is 80 years old. She is a grandmother and she has lived through many joys and sorrows. With the wisdom of age, Jean Shinoda Bolen has gained a perspective and a spirituality that calls forth the power and gifts of the feminine as the way to save the world. That seems like quite a strong statement, and yet, it is what is needed now. This feminine power does not necessarily exclude men, but many men will not be able to tap into their feminine energy in ways that allow them to take advantage of their contributions to saving the world.
She too finds power in the circle as the way to gather together and move in positive healing directions. She has discovered – or uncovered – or recovered a deep spirituality in her work with healing people and the planet.
This is what she has learned and shares. I believe that the thought that women together can change the world is emerging into the minds and hearts of many of us, and that the vessel for personal and planetary evolution is the circle with a spiritual center.
How do we do this important work? I am fascinated by what she says about her own evolution and what she expects is true for others – especially others “of a certain age.” With age comes wisdom, yes. We also gain perspective and a keenly honed sense of impatience. There is an openness within the lives of those who have reached the age of wisdom – for women often called the crone stage of life. First, we are maidens. Then we are birthers and nurturers. When we are finished with the demands of motherhood and nurturing life in whatever career or calling we follow, we come into a time of spaciousness. There is more time for reflection and more space in our lives for looking beyond the demands of family and career. The crone is a woman who acknowledges all that she has accomplished and has achieved the wisdom of experience – success and failure, joy and sorrow. There is room for a new kind of impatience at this stage of life. The elder knows the impatience of a life that still has room for meaning and a desire to contribute.
Now, I know that we have people of all ages in this congregation. So this is not a time to diminish or ignore the young and the middle aged. It is a time to encourage them to be all they can and will be. For those of us in our grandmother years – whether or not we have birthed our own children who now have children – we may yet feel the stirring of life within our spirit that calls us on toward yet another mission.
The urgency is real, and perhaps now, there is time and space and wisdom to pursue the urgent stirring of your heart and spirit in a way that is deeply meaningful and moves with the gathering feminine energy that may yet save us. Jean Bolen says that when an idea or an opportunity presents itself, the question, “Is this my assignment?” is important and can be answered only by you. The notion of ‘one more assignment’ – one that speaks to you at the very core of your being - is one of the gifts of this stage of life. For Jean Shinoda Bolen, it came as an urgent message from Mother that she continue her work with spirit and writing and sharing knowledge and wisdom of women.
With nuclear war and overpopulation on the horizon, it is urgent that women awake to the idea that we are the antidote and have the power to change the course patriarchy has set us on. “Gather the women, save the world” is not a tall order when the idea itself may be already moving in the direction of critical mass. (p.146)
What is it that is stirring within your spirit? Something will come to you as an opportunity or a nagging or a crisis and you will wonder: What am I supposed to do now? This may be the assignment your life has been waiting for, and now, you can respond. You can say, “Yes” to this opportunity. Others are hearing and feeling the call. The circle is gathering. The energy is growing. The needs are real and immediate.
Alice Walker says that anything we love can be saved. It will take a fierce compassion to save all that we love. As a grandmother carries a fierce love for her grandchild; this is how we will save the world. What do you love this much?
My Spiritual Companions, may we call forth from deep within ourselves the feminine power and energy to choose the assignment that is truly ours and to know that we are part of that great gathering of women and men who will do this soul work and continue to save the world.
Blessed Be. I Love You. Amen.
March 12, 2017
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Castine