Merry Xmas… and some words of Native American wisdom

IMG_0142I’m going to take some time off, so this is my last blog until the New Year. I’d therefore like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and relaxing Christmas break and all the best for 2015.

I hope you’ve found this website of some value. If you haven’t already done so, you might like to visit my other website, Sharing Culture, which is a part of an initiative focused on Indigenous healing I have developed with filmmaker Michael Liu.

I’d like to end this year with some pearls of wisdom written by Don Coyhis on the basis of what he was told be a Native American Elder in New Mexico:

“We received The Four Laws of Change from an Elder in New Mexico in the mid 1980s. They are some of the deepest roots of the Wellbriety Movement. The Four Laws of Change state:

1. Change is from within.
2. In order for development to occur it must be preceded by a vision.
3. A great learning must take place.
4. You must create a Healing Forest.

Change is from within means that we must have an internal desire to make changes in our lives. We must make a conscious effort to change our intent, our choices, and our behaviours. We need to examine and change our feelings and assumptions about who we are as spouses, parents, family members, and community members.

Meaningful change comes from inside us. It cannot be forced from outside the individual or be foreign to the community if it is to have a positive and lasting effect. All permanent and lasting change starts on the inside and works its way out.

In order for development to occur it must be preceded by a vision means that an individual, family, or community must actively discover and share the thoughts, feelings, and images that can take them forward into a healthy future. If there is no vision, there is no development.

It must answer the question, “What would our lives, our community, or our nation look like if it were working in a good way?” Starting from this outcome-based approach, the Wellbriety Movement helps each person take the steps to create a better life for self, family, and community.

The law of vision ensures that the community’s future will not be an accident. Once the community vision is developed, the spiritual world will then provide a plan of action and guide activities to move toward the vision just created.

A great learning must take place means that everyone needs to be part of the change in order for positive and lasting change to occur. It means that all parts of the cycle of life – baby, youth, adult, and elder – within a community must participate in simultaneous learning experiences (in their own ways) in order for thew community to recover from the effects of alcohol, drugs and intergenerational trauma.

The great learning includes the cultivation includes the cultivation of personal healing and ongoing self and community knowledge, as well as the education needed in contemporary life. The great learning law must include the individual, the family, the community, and the nation acting as an integrated whole.

You must create a healing forest sums up the Four Laws of Change. It is the basis of the Healing Forest Model of positive community change and is expressed by the healing forest story (Simonelli, Spring, 1993) (White Bison, 2002).

Suppose you have a hundred-acre first and in that forest there is disease or sickness. All the trees are sick. It is a sick forest. Suppose, then, you go to the forest one day and you take one of those sick trees and temporarily uproot it and put it under your arm.

You walk down a road and you put it in a nursery where there is good soil. Or, you take a young person. You take them out of the community and you put them in treatment.

So now you have this tree in good soil, and it gets healthy because it is getting sun and rain. It is getting well. It is turning green. You get this tree to be well and you take this well tree back to the sick forest. What happens if we take a well tree back to a sick forest? It gets sick again.

It means that we must actively heal the community and its institutions at the same time an individual works on his or her own healing from alcohol or drugs or other unwell behaviours. The individual affects the community and the community affects the individual. They are inseparable from the point of view of addiction recovery. Everything must be in  the healing process simultaneously.” Don Coyhis and Richard Simonelli

This is an importance between Indigenous and non-Indigenous approaches to healing and recovery. The latter focuses on the individual, whilst the community is often the focus in Indigenous approaches. I’ve written more about Don Coyhis and the Wellbriety Movement here.

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