Native American culture is very generous as noted by the wonderful gifts -Medicine bags are very common and we were gifted one – along with a key chain and delicious treats!
“Cultural Identity” these two words were repeated throughout the training like being guided to our North Star!!!
Gosh – The training left me thinking of the many more possibilities that are available to us to achieve a Grace-Filled Life After Addiction. Plus I was left with such a grateful heart to Becca, Cam and Doug for coming all the way from Astoria!!!
The way Darlene shared about her reasons for doing things a certain way was so matter of fact. To be open hearted, open minded and open mouthed started by putting away any old business to make space for a new beginning! For lack of better words “hang your …outside the door.”
Smudging, drumming, beading and singing, and the use of a talking stick are all vehicles to address any co-dependency, chemical dependency so the person can return to their wholeness. We were guided to step outside in the parking lot across the hospital and stand in a full circle with open hearts awaiting to be smudged by Darleen and Grandfather Bear!!! His ability to connect with participants was evident as he let out little sounds of delightful joy that would make anyone sing!!!!
I loved how clear cut decisions are made in the American Native culture. I love that Darleen adds that the way she tells it is only one way of many. Traditions are different for different tribes. But they are all accepted. Additionally, the going public with the traditions is a fairly new phenomenon. This standing in front of a group was unheard of in the past. “Can I ask you to bend over and share your cheeks – spirituality is so tight it would feel like that” shared a presenter. The understanding from these words of wisdom was evident as participants took in the wealth of knowledge being shared and looked at one another nodding and sharing they could relate to that.
She encouraged us to ask our client…what would you like…tell me about you…what are your traditions?
And Grandfather Bear was delightful in his story-telling! He shared when he retired how he went up into the wilderness and sat…and thought…and sat… four days went by as he asked himself what will I do with myself now…two baby dear walked up within view from the west and two baby deer came from the east and they stood still with him – which he shared is very unusual because they are usually very skittish. After an hour and a half they walked up to him and kissed him on his right cheek – then the other two came up and kissed him on his left cheek. The room became very quiet as he shared how one of the does went in front of him and kicked dirt at him which flung a small red stone at him – “it was there all along – I just couldn’t see it” adds Grandfather Bear. Grandfather Bear reports he added the little stone to his medicine bag he wears around his neck. It was such an honor and a true blessing to hear him share – and I hope I shared his story correctly!!! Narratives – gosh they are amazing!!!
Darleen was asked how to approach a 4 year old Native American child – her response “Ask him” adding that kids will be drawn to their passion whether it be water, sky, rocks… “Ask them” she repeats. The wealth of knowledge that we can get if we open our hearts can be and is incredible. “I would like to know what you would like to know…?
If we say we are going to do something and we don’t – that will be seen as a lie and the trust is lost. So if we say it – we need to do it.
Another participant asked what to do when a client comes through and leaves and they just don’t seem to get it. The counselor added – like they could have gotten more. Darleen gently but directly reminded us that it may appear that Native American people are not getting what we are trying to teach them however many of them do…because “every situation you put us in we learn.” So when a client refuses to look at you in the eye that does not mean they are not listening or taking in the information.
Medicine bags are sacred and really need to be respected. They can hold locks of your grandmother’s hair – essentially anything that helps speak to your heart. The presenters shared how when people go to jail or prison everything is searched and some of the medicine bags have been handed down from generation to generation and have never been opened. Darleen compared it to our cell phone – how would we feel if a stranger came up to us and went through all of our texts, pics and emails?
Darleen mentioned a red cloth – but I did not quite understand if placing items on a red cloth protects their sacredness. We sat attentively taking everything and most of us participants worked on putting together a our own medicine bag. I could feel my heart calming itself down with every stitch!!!
Beading is also a wonderful means of expression. Clients can be beading while they learn. Some clients who have never beaded before have created the most beautiful beadwork shares yet another presenter!
Talking sticks were also shared as useful practices to enhance the group experience!!!
The panel was so informative with Helen sharing how she came to be a counselor years ago and discovering she benefited from everything she has learned -with her father being a full blown alcoholic, her sister’s husband then her sister following and finally her own child becoming an addict. I believe we can all agree that if we aren’t affected we know someone who is affected by substance use. Helen’s spirit although she reports she is not Native American overflows with the same peace and love possessed by American Natives. She smiled authentically as she shared gifts and delicious treats with all of us!
There was a young man who looked like the boy who played in Twighlight, The one who says “The Cullens don’t come here anymore”. I thought he was present – ( I have met Twilight gentleman at NARA a while back). When I asked if it was him he responded “No, but I get that a lot.” He was so delightful sharing his story of his relationship with alcohol and other drugs. He shared he completed the MRT class but continues to go to the Cowlitz Tribe treatment because there is love for you when you walk through the doors right up to when you leave. He is supposed to come to group once a month at this point – “but not a week goes by without him showing up” states one of the other Cowlitz Tribe counselors. The American Native adds that he now stays clean and sober for his future kids – he shares “I don’t want my kids and grandkids to say – why are you doing that to yourself?” His share and everyone’s share was a heartfelt experience. We were so honored to be blessed by this training!!!
Women and their cycles – “we are the strongest but most vulnerable so we don’t put ourselves in harms way.”
During break I shared my heart shaped rock with Darleen and asked her to please hold it so I may get some of her beautiful energy. She did! She then went away back to her seat as I continued enjoy rich conversation with Reed and T-Bird when Darleen came back and reached her hand toward me quietly and handed me a most beautiful smooth amethyst stone with multiple colors!!! I could not believe it. My eyes overflow with tears and my heart with joy as I share this experience with you. I can’t help but be grateful to my source for giving me an open heart that allows me to grow and evolve into a better version of myself. I am a most fortunate person!!! I wish this joy-filled spirit emotional experience on the world. My Grace-Filled Life After Addiction truly is grace-filled!!!
Thank you Grandfather Bear, Darleen, Helen, Nicholas and all of the other presenters and participants for bringing your beautiful culture to us. We are changed forever!!!
BA, CADC1, Recovery Coach
Certified Calling In “The One” Transformative Life Coach
President – Chemical Dependency Training Consortium of the Northwest